She lost her battle with cancer.

She lost her battle with cancer.

Why?  Why did she lose?  Cancer killed her so she is the loser?   I don’t get it.

I’m the first one to roll my eyes at PC terms.  Especially with all the craziness that’s going around now with the “take the word man out of these words” thing.  However, I do think we need another way to talk about people who have been unlucky enough to receive a cancer diagnosis.   As I have mentioned before, my husband and I both had a parent die from cancer, and both had an immediate relative survive cancer.   So I feel like I have the right to discuss this topic.

As everyone knows, it is breast cancer awareness month.  That’s good.  We need to talk about it, and talk about early diagnosis.   My problem is the way we talk about it.   We celebrate the breast cancer survivors the way we celebrate winners of the Super Bowl.   We show pretty, smiling celebrities putting on their brave face, and beating that cancer! We act like they are the victors and their survival is because of some special skill or attitude they possess.  But is it really?  And what does that say about the people killed by cancer?

First let’s talk about the widely use phrase “battling cancer.”    This phrase automatically assumes there is a winner and a loser.  Either the patient wins, or the cancer wins.   But I really don’t think that’s right.  My mom and dad both had cancer.  My dad died four months after his brain tumor came back.   We watched his mind and body deteriorate.  It was awful.   But why is he a loser?  He did not do anything wrong.  He did what the doctor said.  He just got unlucky.   So, on the other hand, my mom and my sister-in-law also had cancer.  They are survivors!!  They are winners!!  They fought that cancer!!  It sounds like they are champions!  So why are they winners and my dad and mother-in-law losers?  They aren’t winners.   My mom didn’t win.  She had several surgeries on her FACE.  She had half of her nose chopped off.   She is alive, but she didn’t fight any harder than my dad.   She is lucky to be alive, and we are lucky that she is alive, but I wouldn’t call her a winner.   She has to live with the fear of it coming back.  My sister-in-law had thyroid cancer.  She survived!! She is a big winner!!  But she didn’t win either.  For the rest of her life she will suffer with the consequences of thyroid removal, and is constantly adjusting and readjusting medications.  Yes, she is lucky to be alive, and yes, we are lucky she is alive, but I wouldn’t call that a win either.

In this politically correct world, I am surprised we don’t think about the families of those people who were killed by cancer.   How does it feel to them to celebrate the survivors?  As if those survivors are somehow better than their family member who has passed away?   It’s not cool and it’s not fair.

Why don’t we deal in reality instead of in fantasy?   In reality, cancer always sucks.   It sucks bad whether it kills you or not.   I am sure that almost everyone reading this is close to someone with cancer.   So, why don’t we show this side in the media?   Instead of interviewing a smiling celebrity, wearing her pink, talking about battling cancer, why don’t we show the dark side?  Why don’t we show her throwing up after chemo, or crying with her family?   If the media really wants to raise awareness, they should show us what cancer really is, and what it really does to the patients and to their families.   I bet you’d get a lot more women heading out to get a mammogram if you showed the pain, instead of the fake smile of a celebrity.

As you know, I have MS, and I read a lot about this “celebrity spokesperson” problem in the MS community.   While MSers (that’s our cool name) are glad Jack Osborne is raising awareness and money, they were kinda upset to see him dancing around on Dancing with the Stars.   It’s not Jack’s fault he could do that; there are lots of people with MS who could.  But there are also lots of people with MS who couldn’t.   And wouldn’t we do a better job or raising money for research and raising awareness if we showed the painful side of any disease?


Think about it.  Think about SPCA commercials.  I’ve seen plenty of commercials with a sad song playing the background of a video montage of sad, crying, starving puppies waiting to be adopted.  And it works! It pulls at our heartstrings and it shows the true situation of abandoned pets.

So, why can’t we do that with people?  Why doesn’t the media show the suffering caused by disease instead of covering it up with makeup, fake hair, fake lashes and pink?



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