There are many metaphors that people use to describe cancer… a dark scary cave, a parasite, an obstacle, a roadblock, a hard stroke of fate, a great burden, a marathon, a drama, a dance. Understandably, Lance Armstrong, visualized his cancer as the most important bicycle race he’d ever entered.
I entitled my very first blog post about cancer “A new journey…” using one of the most common analogies for the disease. Is it any wonder that someone like myself, struck with wanderlust, would use a travel metaphor? It seemed to come naturally to me, and I have continued to use it ever since.
Having cancer is like going on a journey without a map. We have no idea how long the trip will be or where it will take us. There are unexpected twists and turns and bumps in the road. Thankfully, I don’t travel it alone. Just as he was always by my side as we explored various parts of Asia, Richard is my traveling companion. The journey is as much his as mine and the outcome will affect him as much as me. Unlike many of our wanderings in countries like South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, we don’t make this trip without travel guides. We have a whole team of medical professionals showing us the way and a host of friends and family cheering us on.
This is not the only metaphor that I use to refer to my cancer, however. The military metaphor seems to have fallen from favour in recent times, but I believe that it is apt and I, for one, will continue to use it. As fellow neuroendocrine cancer warrior, Ronny Allan, recently wrote on his blog,
“I don’t like Cancer – it attacked me, it attacked my family, it attacked others I know, it has killed people I know……. it has killed millions of people and changed many lives. I’m ‘fighting’ Cancer. I’m in a ‘battle’ with Cancer.”
Yes, Ronny. Yes, you are. We both are. We’re fighting for our lives and cancer is the enemy!
Apparently, there are both bloggers and professionals who don’t think that we should use this kind of language. Some claim that such language is inherently masculine, power-based and paternalistic. Really? Girls can’t fight? You just watch me! Others feel that using a military metaphor suggests that if one loses the war against cancer, she must not have fought hard enough. Nonsense! If I lose this battle, it will be because the weapons of this war are not yet perfected and our understanding of the enemy is limited.
We do have weaponry, however. We fight with surgical tools and with chemical and nuclear warfare. Like soldiers, we strive to carry ourselves through battle with courage, grace, and dignity and most of us have scars to show that we’ve been engaged in battle.