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Why war language is not suitable for Cancer

Why war language is not suitable for Cancer

Melanie Lidstone-Land looks at the language used around cancer and why it is not suitable for cancer patients.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, often people use language such as battle, fight and warrior.

When someone dies from cancer, often they will be described as losing the battle, having put up a fight or being brave.

The language is distinctly linked to war.

Even charities use the same wording.

I can understand why it is used – trying to offer comfort and positivity in an unimaginably difficult time.

But, in fact it is recently reported that suchlanguage can make people living with cancer feel uncomfortable and disempowered.

Entering a battle or taking on a fight is a choice.

The language used is reported as makingit sound like the patient has a choice, when actually they may feel that it’s all out of their control.

Cancer is not a choice.

Yes, it can be motivational wording to some. In cases where prognosis is positive, it can really help keep mindset positive.

But for those who have no effective treatment, living with cancer may not feel like a brave fight, but a daily struggle. The choice it prioritising quality of life and living in the now – no strategy to battle involved.

War language invokes the message that we can win or lose against cancer. No one wants to fail. And it’s very simplistic.

Life with cancer is not simplistic.

For ‘survivors’ it doesn’t explain the aftermath of treatment, the side effects, the physical changes to your body, the anxiety of cancer returning or the mental scars it leaves.

And for those that ‘lose’ the battle, it leaves cancer to define their whole life. It doesn’t reflect the person they were before cancer, the legacy they leave and the memories they created.

The war language can be effective in publicity.

Charities use the war language to spur on the public to get behind the cause.

But it does risk over simplifying.

‘One day we will beat cancer’ – but there isn’t one strategy to do so.

Cancer is the enemy which comes in over 200 different forms, is individual to the person and is a complicated foe. There is no singleweapon to cure it.

Each cancer journey is different, each person is different too.

I’m not saying war language is not suitable for everyone; simply that it isn’t suited to every situation.

We need to choose our language to suit the person living with cancer, not to make ourselves feel better or like we are helping.”

Melanie helps people and their families, who have experienced negligence in their diagnosis of cancer. 

She helps those who have experience delays in diagnosis, misdiagnosis and delays in treatment of cancer get answers as to why.  

If you or a loved one experiences this, Melanie will chat you through how she can support you to get answers and compensation. 

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