There has been a lot of talk today about changing the language around Cancer, do we really need to change the language or do we need to revisit our interpretation?
I really do not think people intend to offend, quite the opposite their intention is to offer support and it is us who take offence. Can we not just take what is said with the intention it was said with?
I like to think human beings, in general, are waging a war against Cancer with all the research, raising of awareness, improved medical treatment etc that is happening and being invested in. I hope for my children’s sake that the human race wins that war.
I may not be able to personally fight my Cancer, but I do have battles to face along the way, I have had to fight for referrals and be my own advocate in getting the best possible treatment. Some mornings I have to battle against the fatigue to muster enough energy to get out of bed. I have had to navigate the benefits system and fight to ensure I am getting anything I am entitled to, now that was a battle.
Am I brave or inspirational? Not really I’m just doing what anyone else would do in my shoes, because despite Cancer right now life goes on. Am I offended by people calling me brave or inspirational? No, I am not, I understand they just do not really know what to say and they have no idea how I am feeling or what I am going through and that is not their fault, they are just trying to be kind.
If we need to change the language around Cancer what else do we need to change the language around? When someone is grieving a loved one do we need to stop offering condolences by saying “I’m sorry for your loss”? I mean, they have not just misplaced their loved one, they’re not lost, they died but most of us find it difficult to know exactly what to say. I am fairly certain though that the grieving are not offended, they appreciate your acknowledgement of their grief.
I appreciate others acknowledging the difficult time I am going through, it is really tough at times, and I would rather people talk about it and to me and maybe get it wrong than ignore it. The more we are willing to talk about these things the greater awareness we can raise, and the more lives we can save, and I worry that by complaining people use the wrong language we might just discourage people from talking about Cancer altogether for fear of offending.
Does it upset me when people tell me to stay positive? No, I see them as trying to offer me support, I do not feel any pressure to keep smiling when I feel ill, and I do not feel they are suggesting that a lack of positivity would in any way contribute to my decline. I do however do my best to look for the positives in my situation, I find this makes it much easier for me personally to accept and deal with circumstances beyond my control.
If I die from Cancer will I have lost the fight? I think not, I hope I have contributed to others not landing up in my shoes by encouraging people to talk, take notice of symptoms and be more aware. I hope I have made a difference to some and helped people feel more comfortable going to their GPs and requesting tests. This is my contribution to the war on Cancer and while I may still lose my life to Cancer the war is far from over and I did will not have lost the fight, I have had many victories since my diagnosis and I hold onto them.
Would I be offended if someone in trying to find the right words when talking about my death refers to me as having lost the fight? Well, I will not be here to be offended. Should my family be offended, I think they should take it in the spirit that it is said which I have no doubt will simply be someone doing their best to be thoughtful.
Why do we feel people are suggesting we are weak if we lose the battle? I do not think in any way that people think we are weak, or that we could have done more to live, they are just trying to find a way of expressing that we have died following an illness that we dealt with for a period of time rather than suffering say a heart attack.
Can we all please stop worrying so much about whether people are saying the right thing, or using the right language and start focussing on the intent behind what someone is saying. Can we start graciously accepting the kindness of others?
I apologise if anyone is offended by this post, that is absolutely not my intention, everyone is different and I know many will have a completely different view to me, however, I can assure anyone talking to me they do not need to think twice about which words to pick when offering support and kindness.