We cancer patients get a lot of pressure from society about surviving cancer – we must fight until the end, even if it means we fight against ourselves. We’re often considered “winners” if we survive, but if we die from a cancer, we have “lost.” At least that’s the perception the military language has created.
Why are people so preoccupied about proving something? Why can’t we just accept that death is part of life too, regardless of the cause?
When we die from cancer, cancer also dies with us.
We want to be so detached from death that even when our bodies have expired, we want to place blame. Our bodies aren’t perfect. They can fail us at any age.
What prompted me to write about this was a message I saw from a family member a few weeks ago stating that she was supporting those in our family “battling” cancer as well as those who have “lost the battle” against it. I am not dismissing her good intentions, but I felt a little pressured. We all have an expiration date and we can’t control the outcome so it’s unfair to put such weight on us.
It isn’t helpful to patients to label their cancer as a “battle.” I know some patients use it as a form of self-cheering, which is acceptable because one must do what helps them cope. You can’t tell a cancer patient how to do their cancer, only they know best. The down side to this is that the military language has become part of the cancer culture, and that makes it unfair to patients who do not appreciate it. I personally never use it because I find it hard to separate cancer from me. It’s my DNA. I would feel like I was at war with myself if I called my cancer a battle.
I also don’t feel like a winner because I survived my cancer. I feel lucky.
It’s sad to me that our lives will eventually come to an end whether we are ready or not. It makes me even sadder that some die at a very young age. I am only in my 30’s and already facing a life-threatening illness. I have no choice. I can’t control what my body does. What I can control is what it eats and the amount of exercises it does, but just like raising a child, you do what you can and wish for the best outcome.
How is a terminal patient supposed to feel when he/she will be remembered as the one who lost his/her battle against cancer? What about their loved ones? I’ve felt hopeless, helpless and sad when a family member dies from cancer and I hear people describe it in such terms. What hopes does that leave for me when I fear the same kind of ending? Do not call my cancer a “battle.” I want to be remembered as someone who lived her life the best way she could under the uncontrolled and unexpected circumstances she was given, and hopefully, someone who inspired others along the way. Or not.
We don’t have a choice when it comes to mortality. Some will go sooner than others. And it certainly doesn’t mean you lost to anything. It means you’ve been diagnosed with life, and with that, comes mortality.
I’m living my life just like anyone else is. I get joy from life. Despite my cancer diagnosis, I still get up in the mornings to breathe the fresh air, to laugh, to cry and to create more memories. I allow myself to go through all the emotions life inspires. Every cancer patient I’ve known does the same.
I am aware I will face mortality one day – don’t know when or how – but if the cause is cancer, I hope my love ones would see it as what it simply is: my body has expired. At the end, there will be no winners because my cancer dies with me too.