I’ve read a few articles lately about the negative connotation of the term Battle for cancer patients. There is science supporting that the analogy of cancer as a war to be won puts tremendous burden and even guilt on the patient/soldier. How many times has a well intentioned friend or family tried to encourage me by telling me to keep fighting fearing that if I am not fist-pumping I am giving up? Too many times. There’s a push now to replace Battle with the gentler Journey. Here is just one of the most recent articles I’ve seen. What do you think?
We’re Finally Winning the Battle Against the Phrase “Battle with Cancer”.
The first onset of a cancer, we are ALL IN for battle. Our fight or flight adrenaline is ON. I think Battle aptly describes this situation. It’s all we know how to do against cancer at this stage. Grit your teeth and lean your shoulder in and push. Management of cancer as a chronic disease becomes less of a battle and more like a cold war that maybe one day becomes a respectful truce. It is in this scenario that you have to learn other more strategic and less brute force survival techniques. Fight or flight adrenaline will not serve you well for the long haul. I now do less fist pumping to my cancer and more negotiating. “O.k., you stay where you are within certain boundaries and we can co-exist peacefully”.
Only after many years with cancer do I now lean toward the term Journey. The more prominent analogy of Battle was only gradually replaced with Journey, and not fully replaced. After all, one can sustain battle for only so long before growing too weary to continue. A journey however can ebb and flow, providing rest and pleasant distraction along the way. My top photo on this blog is not by accident. I take pictures of paths everywhere I go. That is exactly how I view this life with (or without) cancer.
Both images, Battle and Journey, apply to living with cancer, evolving and changing over time and across circumstances. There is a common emotion that I’ve recognized where I choose Journey over Battle as my descriptor and that is appreciation. I appreciate my resilience and strength. I appreciate the gravity of the burden I feel. I appreciate that I have physical limitations. I appreciate waking well rested and with no pain. I appreciate every step I take up the hill in my nearby park. I appreciate a slice of pizza and cold beer at our favorite pizza joint. I appreciate a morning yoga class. I appreciate completing a household chore or project. This is the stuff of a Journey. But battles are a part of the same journey. Along the path there are obstacles that force me into battle; bad PET scans, chemo side-effects that get the better of me, hard surgeries, aggravation and fear. These are things to battle through but hopefully the battle is swiftly won allowing the journey to continue. Life is the journey, cancer is a road on that journey and battles of all kinds litter the path.