Rephrasing Cancer

April 24, 2018

I have made no secret of the fact I dislike being referred to as a “cancer warrior” and it upsets me when I hear people refer to my cancer “battle”. 


It's a personal thing and I know a lot of people with cancer insist on being known as such.  The English language is rich, so I began to wonder whether there might be some better and more refined terms to use...


Warrior sounds rather negative to me and in any battle, there are usually winners and losers, which also has negative connotations. Games also have winners and losers, so how about the "cancer game"?  Admittedly it's not a very fun one and I am only too aware of who the losers are in the cancer game but it is one which I do my damdest to win. 


Until recently, I couldn’t understand why people would refer to their experience of cancer as a battle. For me it has felt more like a journey, travelling from a starting point (surgery and diagnosis) with numerous experiences along the way (treatment, scans, oncologist appointments), with plenty of highs (two scan results showing no evidence of disease) and lows (two recurrences to date). The best thing about this rocky journey is the fellow travellers I have encountered along the way - the amazing women who are on a similar journey. 


With my latest chemo regime - my third in less than two years - came the understanding of how dealing with the ravages of chemo can indeed feel like a battle but even then, it feels like more of a “struggle”. The nausea and fatigue causing me to struggle with ordinary day to day activities. Actually, “interference” would be an even better term, along with bothersome, insufferable and a bloody pain in the arse!!


Despite reluctantly accepting the accuracy of the terms, I still dislike Warrior and Battle but, apart from those offered above, what are the alternatives?

I thought about “fighter” as it sounds slightly less oppressive than Warrior but it’s still too aggressive and confrontational for my liking.


Many people refer to the "cancer club", although it is a club nobody asked to join and not one anybody would choose voluntarily to be a member of.

There is a big “Living With and Beyond Cancer” initiative and this is a phrase I can get on board with.  Often in this era of medical advancement, rather than being a death sentence, cancer is something which people may live with for many years, thus reframing cancer as a chronic condition, much like MS, diabetes or heart disease. 


So an alternative to Warrior could be “liwibecas” (LIving WIth & BEyond CAncer) or even simply “livers” - oh no, wait, that’s an organ in the body or a person from Liverpool, depending on how your pronounce it! Scrap that idea...

How about rephrasing “battling cancer” as “dealing with cancer”? To me, it sounds so much more empowering.  So people who are dealing with cancer could be referred to as “cancer dealers”. Again, no, because the word dealer throws up so many drug connotations - and let’s face it, cancer isn’t a drug anyone would purchase!

Even better than “dealing “ with cancer, “coping” with cancer is a nice way to phrase it, so "copers"? I’m not sure that’s even a word but cancer copers has a nice ring to it as I’m a great fan of alliteration to strengthen a point.


I recently talked about “managing” my cancer situation, which naturally makes me a “manager”. Manager is is a positive word - it’s strong, it’s empowering and it says who is in charge - you.

Yes, I’m a CANCER MANAGER.  What are you and what's yours called?


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