It was mrsblue who first mentioned Speak the Lnaguage of Healing and you're right that its excellent for its critique of battle metaphors for dealing with cancer and also for challenging all the stuff which induces guilt about why we got breast cancer in the first place.
As I'm not religious nor particularly spiritual I found the alternative framework of 'healing' and 'acceptance' almost as irritating. Christina Middlebrook in one of my favourite cancer books writes that healing refers to 'an attitude to accompany me so I can smile through this vile disease. I think dying is difficult eough without having to achieve a pleasant attitide to the process.' Love that.
I don't like ideas about us being on a cancer jounrney where eventually we battle to the end and then accept our fate and die 'peacefully.'
The language used around cancer is so distorted that its hard to find words that aren't polluted by inappropriate metaphor. But I've been thinking recently that I like the word 'struggle', not in the sense of it being a synonym for fighting but in its other usage where it means 'special effort' 'toil' 'work.' Living with cancer is b***y hard work and yes I struggle with treatment, with the idea that I'm going to die early, sometimes struggle with friends as they try to grasp how I feel about cancer. 'struggle' seems ot me to speak as accurately as anything else about the process of living with cancer without engaging the worst of battle metaphors (which incidentally are widely used on breast cancer sites , particularly in relation to women near the end of their lives)
I don't know now which thread I found out about it, but I brought the book 'Speak the Language of Healing' cheap off Amazon. It's subtitle is 'Living with breast cancer without going to war'. Some may find it too spiritual, but I am absolutely loving it for the very reason that it is so against talking 'fighting' talk, as if we are either winners or losers in the cancer game. You know the headlines....she 'lost' her battle, or she is 'fighting bravely'. It sometimes makes you feel guilty for having the bloomin' disease!! The book has lifted a lot of my guilt. the press is full of reasons that may cause or prevent cancer, but it is more like a lottery to me.
One lovely line form the book; someone had a tee-shirt printed with
'Eat right, exercise, die anyway'!!!
It is worth getting hold of a copy, there are a few cheap second hand ones available.
I have never understood what 'fighting it' means either.I am so glad someone else asked that.How do you fight?You accept the treatment and try to ensure that you get the best available.You try vey hard not to spend your time curled up in a corner crying and railing against fate-after all why NOT you.You dont upset or embarrass friends and family by telling them how upset you are.After all cant be accused of negativity can we girls.No we are all,depending on our cancers, waltzing round the ballroom with our bald heads,absent boobs,colostomy bags and various lines,drips and drains.We drift dreamily by under the admiring gaze of the oncologist.We wear fluffy pink and have ribbons round our brows.We are the dancing army on a journey to death or victory.Yeah thats us.
Well if it's all supposed to be a battle darlings, I rather think we're at the Somme. Sorry if that's not very positive. Probably unlikely to be remembered by my oncologist it seems. What a shocker.
Maybe I'm a bit thick but I don't really understand what people mean by "fighting it". Surely if you walk around saying to yourself ' this is never going to come back or affect me again' then what do you do if it does? How are people "fighting it"? I think I'd sooner just be a bit realistic and accept that it might.
Thanks for the link, an interesting listen.
I'm afraid I hooted with laughter when the positive attitude woman started off by saying "I'm amazed nobody has suggested that attitude could be instrumental in survival..." Good grief, if she got past diagnosis, never mind into treatment, without a slew of people telling her to be positive, she has had a one-of-a-kind experience that few of us have been lucky enough to have.
Thank you for providing the link Eliza, and for your, Jane's and Jennie's thoughts.
I found one of the key points of the discussion was Rachel’s reference to the over-romanticism of cancer. Breast cancer in particular is seen as being pink and fluffy, associated with fun activities and pretty pink ribbons every October. The common (mis)conception is that yes, it must be dreadful for you, but as long as you fight and are positive, you will be alright (and this is a fact, because their friend and their aunt and that lovely girl down the road all had it, and just look at them now). I find this attitude both simplistic and patronising. In my more down days I also find it insulting and upsetting.
I am a generally positive person, and people tell me endlessy that I will be alright because of my positive attitude – but if so, why did I get cancer in the first place?
In truth, the why question is not one that vexes me much at all. When 1 in 3 of us will all get cancer at some time, I think the question should almost become “why not me” for the others. But given how common cancer now is, why is it approached so differently from other medical conditions?
I cannot imagine people telling me that being positive would help rid me of gout, for example, or see BBC Radio 4 giving airtime to someone who claims that they are using their mind as their main tool against a frozen shoulder. So why with cancer?
I don’t know the answers, but I am coping with my breast cancer by following the advice of my doctors, and using all the drugs, surgery and radiotherapy recommended for me.
Thank you very much for the link to this podcast.
I listened intently.Whilst having breast cancer I had a rollercoaster of emotions,from a feisty fighting spirit to a feeling of utter despair and resignation.But over time I myself have learnt to accept it and yes with time I do feel I am more in control.
Before I had BC I suffered with anxiety and panic attacks,I no longer get these, strange perhaps but now I am definately a different person,even stronger than I realised.
I do believe our approach towards cancer does make a difference perhaps not to our quantity but quality of life.Sometimes in a strange warped way I feel lucky that I have been able to have the opportunity to see that.
Yes, certainly worth listening.
I found the dance concept a bit odd - set to the surgeon, turn the oncologist and all do a figure of eight just doesn't work for me! I'm not happy with the battle concept either. I found myself agreeing with Rachel about the problems with the positive thinking approach and I prefer her more scientific attitude. Jane, I think you are right about the medical profession distancing themselves and that has a whole lot of consequences.
I suspect that part of the reason why people do things themselves in the way of their own healing and acceptance may be that it is a way to regain some control. Essentially we have very little control over our treatment and we often have to be quite assertive in order to engage the professionals in discussions over our options. I know that I read up and research, prepare and ask questions as a way of trying to stay in control.
It is still early days for me (dx early Nov), but I don't think dealing with all this is going to be a linear process. With the best will and outcomes the fact is that my body is now permanently marked by what has happened/is happening to me and there will be anniversary dates that recall things. I'm sure that will mean some revisiting of the emotions I've been through so far.
Thanks Eliza and Julie. Really intersting discussion (don't be put off by the first minute when some people are discussing adopted chimp Eddy and steamed sea bream and I thought I'd got the wrong link)
Basically Stephanie (think positive gang) and Rachel (scientific gang) discuss the pros and cons of a 'fighting spirit' and then cancer expert Karol Sikora comes in with his views. Stephanie sees her cancer experience as a 'dance' which makes a change from it being a journey or a battle I suppose. She visualises chemotherapy as a golden healing light... Rachel points out the problems of the think positive gang (and I agree with her)...over romaticisation of cancer and the danger that the think positive message is very akin to saying if you don't do so cancer is all your own fault.
Karol Sikora says there's no reserach evidence that a battling spirit helps cancer but then says that in his opinion patients who 'do battle' do better. But he says that impression may be because he remembers those patients more...intersting. He says that in his expereince doctors and cancer specialists who themselves get cancer are 'not very good' at dealing with it. I supsect this is because doctors, like many well people, turn cancer patients into a kind of distant 'other' as a way of protecting themselves. When they do get cancer they are only too aware of what lies ahead of them. No golden healing light for them.
Sikora goes on about an acceptance/fighting spectrum and talks about patients doing their own healing and acceptance. Once again I think these concepts are one of the ways in which doctors distance and protect themselves from the harsher realities of having cancer. Dealing with cancer, is not I think, a linear process, but a cycical one where one (or at least I) enters and leaves and revists various states at different times. These states include despair, loneliness, anger and grief as well as hope, 'acceptance' and getting on with it.
Worth a listen, There's a blog too though I haven't accessed that yet.
Would love to hear this but just didn't quick search of BBC site and couldn't find it. Have you got the link?
BBC Radio 4's iPM programme has a podcast this week entitled "Do people with cancer have to 'fight' it?", which is well worth listening to. There is also a related blog on the BBC website, with lots of comments.