Perhaps more than any other disease, dealing with and recovering from cancer is often thought of in the same terms as warfare. In the language used to describe recovering from cancer we hear words like courage, fight, battle, winning, and losing. Singer Carly Simon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She said that in some ways cancer brought focus to her life. She is quoted as saying, “When you actually have a battle, it’s better than when you don’t know who to fight.”
The battle against cancer does invoke many of the same images used in war. It is a struggle and a fight. You assemble your army – your team of doctors, nurses, family members and support groups. You put on your armor and muster all of your strength. You develop a winning strategy and then a plan of action. Along the way there may be setbacks. You may even lose a battle or two, but the important thing is that in the end you win the war. The goal is to take back your territory, your body, from this enemy attacker called cancer. It wasn’t invited. It isn’t welcome and it needs to go. The armor that people put on will be different for each person. I have known people with cancer who never wanted to talk about it.
They didn’t want anyone to see them in a weakened state. They only wanted to be remembered for the vibrant person they were before the effects of their treatment became noticeable. This may seem a lonely path to walk, but it was their way of protecting themselves. Others want to talk to many people about it and keep their support system informed about what is happening every step of the way. They draw strength from those around them and from their kind words. They gain comfort from people checking in on them to see how they are doing.
It is my belief that someone’s choice of armor should be respected. Do I think that those who don’t want to talk about it should? Yes, I do. That’s not my decision to make though. As part of their army, I simply follow orders. The patient is the General and only they know the big picture. No one goes into a battle expecting to lose. Cancer is exhausting – physically, mentally and emotionally. If you enter the ring expecting to win the fight, that can’t hurt your chances any, right? So if you or someone you know is dealing with cancer, put on your battle shoes and get ready to give it all you’ve got. Cancer is a tough competitor, but so are you!