The language of cancer. Are you a survivor? A patient? A warrior? I marvel at how many words we have in our effort to quantify, qualify and translate the cancer experience. On some level I think that’s wonderful. A rich vocabulary stands to give us more opportunities to find that one descriptor that is just right. However, there are moments when I wonder if our choices fragment us. Does language become a barrier, rather than a bridge? I recently saw someone write “cancer victim” and I just know what my fellow bloggers and tweeters would think, and let’s just say it wouldn’t be supportive! But it makes me wonder: Has political correctness brought us to the point where there is no longer a way to engage in dialog without offending one another?
I saw it happen recently on a blog. Not with labels, but a similar concept. A woman, undiagnosed I suspect, proudly announced that she was headed out to partake in a “pink” event. Local restaurants were offering an array of pink food, and theoretically donating some portion of profits to local breast cancer centers. I could just see a meal of cosmopolitans, grilled salmon and strawberry shortcake — all in the name of a cure! The best one? The “Save My Melons” cocktail. I can just imagine the look on the face of a waiter, were I to mention it’s too late to save my melons…I left them in pathology. Was I offended? Hell, yes. But any number of fellow bloggers (was that sexist of me?) jumped on the bandwagon of “how dare you???” I get it, and it was my instinct as well, as I share their indignation. Having seen the original blogger appropriately “educated,” I begged off and came here. But it left me with the question of how do we connect with those who don’t yet “get it.”
So tell me…what IS your initial reaction when the language used by others offends, insults or hurts? What language works for you? Are you a “thriver”? A “victim”? A “why me”? A “why not me”? Can we still honor those who chose labels other than ours? Are labels a help or a hindrance? And when the language is upsetting or offensive, how do you open a conversation? How do you invite others in to see the world through your eyes? Or can only those who have been here truly understand? And if we can’t find a way to translate, do we all run the risk of walking this path alone?