Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cancer language

I recently read about more offensive language of cancer. Where do people get these ideas?

I know then President Nixon declared a war on cancer in the early 1970s. Fine, have your war on cancer but sending in armies of scientists and doctors to research it to death and kill it off. But the people with cancer? We are not at war, we just want to stay alive.

I really dislike the S-word. Why? Because its a label. I am a person; I am not a label. You can describe me by saying words like short, slightly flabby, or something else, or even smart or other nice words. You can even say slightly cranky or pushy or assertive. You can also say I am a patient and a frequent flier at my local hospital. But I am not a survivor. All I have survived is a billion or so doctor's appointments and medical misadventures. Okay, you can say I have survived driving in metropolitan Boston for the last few decades. Sometimes that's a daily demolition derby.

I didn't survive cancer. With cancer, you can achieve remission, partial remission, or have NED (No Evidence of Disease) status (which is me currently). But you are never told you are cured. If you are told you are cured your doctor must be stupid a miracle worker because there is no cure for cancer. Well okay, there are a few cancers that can be cured but definitely not all. You will spend the rest of your life being 'best buds' with your oncologist, endocrinologist, or so other specialist.

Now the CDC in its infinite wisdom as a part of our government has launched a new program called Bring Your Brave, which is a breast cancer awareness program for young women. Really? I find it almost as offensive as the boobies programs that are out there. Bring my brave what? My brave face - the one I wear when my doctor is about to give me bad news or I am heading off for another surgery? My brave suit of armor when I have to deal with a bunch of nitwits somewhere?

And why does it only focus on breast cancer? It would be much better to have a cancer awareness program for all types of cancer for younger adults. Most do not expect to be diagnosed with cancer and have their world upside down.

For any other ailment, you are a patient or a person. This patient has a complication with their cardiac surgery. Or 'this person has an ulcer', or 'congestive heart failure', or 'strep throat'. Why can't we say this patient has stage III pancreatic cancer? Why does it have to be 'this person is fighting metastatic brain cancer' or  this patient is a breast cancer survivor'?

These war words are the obscenities of the cancer world. Fix your vocabulary people! Thank you. 

1 comment:

Kathi said...

You know, I've been a big fan of the CDC. I'm really disappointed that they've succumbed to the unwritten but ubiquitous 'Mad Men,' Madison Avenue advertising philosophy that you have to have some cutesy slogan to promote your programs and products. Oy.

I hate all the 'you're so brave,' 'you're a hero' crap. As if. What choice does anyone have when faced with some life-threatening health catastrophe? 'No, I don't feel like dealing with it, thanks?' You put one foot in front of the other, providing you're up to walking at all, because you haven't much choice in the matter if you want to continue your existence. Stupid.