Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Fighting words and cancer battles

What does it mean when we apply the term “win” to a battle with cancer? What does that imply when it doesn't go that way, when the cancer won? The person failed? They didn't fight hard enough? I have seen some pretty ridiculous commentary, that if you fight hard enough, anyone could survive. And well those comments nearly break me, every time. I have to step away. And cool myself. Because the reality is, THAT IS JUST NOT TRUE.
We wanted Sammy to beat cancer, conquer the beast, slay his dragon. And now I feel we failed him. We. Were. Wrong. We used the wrong language. And the language needs to change. But honestly far more needs to change, than just the language used in a battle with cancer.
Really thinking about it. When a soldier goes to war and comes back, but his buddy does not. We don't tell him you won, he lost. Ultimately, they are fighting the same battle. One of them just didn't survive. And the survivor might be injured, have life long damage, suffer ptsd (post traumatic stress disorder), deal with survivors guilt, and the list is long. They may be alive, but I wouldn't say they are always lucky. Then the other lost to the battle, lost to war, killed in battle. Are declared killed in action. They didn't give up. They just didn't have the right tools to keep them safe, to help them survive. But they didn't lose. And survivors didn't win. There is JUST death and life. The two outcomes of war. The two outcomes of cancer. Yet, we say “win the fight to cancer”. So when the fight is in the end, and cancer has “won,” did they lose? Was it their fault?
Sammy went to war with at best a 50% chance at 5 years survival. But add in his age and specifics of his disease, his outcome was grim. He was a martyr. He was sent into battle without the right armor. Without the right weapons. He was was facing a monster with outdated treatment, a monster that is under funded and researched.
Ultimately, Sammy finished the race against cancer. He fought hard. He fought to survive. He fought for his life. And he gave everything, sacrificed everything, including his life. He was KILLED IN ACTION.

In cancer, there is only one victory. A cure for all cancer. When no lives are sacrificed. When no lives are maimed. That is the ONLY win. Period.

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