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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Abjection Sustained
I wonder why, of all diseases, cancer is the one most often characterized in terms of an alien entity, an invasive enemy one is expected to "fight"? People "beat" cancer or "lose their battle" with cancer, phrases far less often invoked with reference to, say, measles, botulism or pneumonia, even though all those conditions really are caused by alien entities, and their treatments involve massacring the little blighters by the thousand. Whereas most cancers, as I understand it, are merely our cellular selves gone haywire. Why do we (or at any rate the newspapers) turn to the language of the abject for their discussion? Is our bodies' betrayal so horrible to contemplate that we would rather think in terms of a siege than that the enemy is within the gates?

Laying these lugubrious thoughts firmly aside and turning to the Burlington Arcadia... I leave early tomorrow, and will be arriving at Logan around 7pm, so I doubt I'll be up to much socializing that night. But Friday, d.v., will find me perky, and probably pink too.

People are just plain scared, I suspect.

Have a lovely trip- we have to wait until September for our next lot of travels.

Thank you. (I enjoyed your pictures of Eday.)

phrases far less often invoked with reference to, say, measles, botulism or pneumonia

Are any of those as common to die from as cancer nowadays?

(I'm wondering if the rhetoric links to whatever is perceived as the greatest enemy of the human body at the time. Can you find references to "after a long battle with tuberculosis" or "influenza"?)

There are loads of references to "battling" tuberculosis in literature of the late 19th/early 20th century (though it is not always the patient fighting; often it's the doctors), which suggests that it was a common terminology then for that disease.

I wonder why?

Several possibilities: it was a lengthy illness (or could be), so that counteracting it could assume the character of a "campaign"; there was a degree of patient involvement - they weren't generally lying unconscious; there wasn't a single cure (such as an antibiotic that would take it out), so much as a regimen requiring such soldierly qualities as discipline and perseverance.

Very much like cancer, in fact!


I don't think so, though pneumonia is a very common killer - 7% of the worldwide population (to cancer's 13%) - and the largest killer of children, at least according to Wiki.

I am looking forward to having nineweaving introduce us properly (in real life, that is).

Me too!

Lots of people still die of pneumonia. Mostly very old people.

Cancer is now thought often to be of viral origin, but that doesn't negate your point.

I knew that was true of cervical cancer, but wasn't sure about the other types.

The wonderful Anthony Wilson wrote a book of poems about having lymphoma. It's called "Riddance" - I highly recommend it. He gets incensed by this particular trope. I spoke to him about it and we agreed that if cancer is a battle, then it is between the cancer and the medicine. The patient is merely the battlefield.

The inherent danger in that language is that the "courageous" patient gamely "fights" the cancer and there is a subtle insinuation that if only he could try harder and fight more, he would "beat" it. And so people who die of cancer become morally inferior to those who survive.

In extreme cases, patients try so hard to "fight" with alternative therapies, positive mental attitudes and so on that they turn to conventional medicine far too late. There are people who say that's what happened to Steve Jobs.

Some years ago I read an article by a cancer patient (please note choice of word) railing against the terms battle, survivor and all the associated rhetoric.

Because s/he (I forget) was sick and tired of the implication that if they just fought hard enough, they could win! Flipside of that being, if they died, they hadn't made the effort...

This was particularly hard to take during chemo, being utterly at the mercy of the poison dripped in their veins, watching fellow patients die despite the best that medical science could do.

It was an astonishingly powerful piece - and as you can tell, has stayed with me, to the extent that I do my very best to avoid any such terminology, most especially when talking to patients.

Could have been Barbara Ehrenreich. She has certainly said similar things (as do lots of cancer patients, including my mother back when).

interesting - and validating - to see it's not just me who's come across this, per your comment and the one above mine. Thanks, both.
I shall continue to mind my language accordingly.

It reminds me of the so many comments in which trans people such as myself are constantly told we're 'heroes' and 'brave'. We aren't and we're not and such language is deeply annoying.

and thanks for that perspective too.

Now hoping that won#t sound clueless and patronising but I am cis and thus reliant on my valued trans friends to teach me not to be clueless... so I'll just shut up and trust that you know what I mean... :-)


And you clearly know enough not to say: 'but you are'.............:o)

"Burlington Arcadia" is perfect.

So looking forward to seeing you again.

Travel well.