It’s not a battle

We say or hear things like “kick cancer’s butt,” “win the war against cancer,” “conquer the disease,” and “slay this enemy!”

One has proclaimed, “beating cancer is a personal battle.” It’s enormously personal, alright, but is it a battle? This is my question to reflect on today.

I find it curious that with cancer, as with few, if any, other diseases, we so often frame the treatment and healing process as a battle.

Would we say, “beating this broken leg is a battle?” or “beating my psoriasis is a battle?” Well, maybe some would, I dunno.

But I wouldn’t.

Cancer is only going to be a chapter in your life, not the whole story  

Joe Wasser

And, please, if for you reading this, being the warrior fighting a battle works to keep you positive, motivated to get you through the demanding day-to-day, then by all means, you do you! I do not intend to diminish anyone’s personal way of coping with this monstrous disease.

These thoughts I share apply to me, and maybe to some others in my shoes, too. And for those not personally touched by cancer, I intend them to be thought-provoking, not judgmental.

Throughout history, when we’ve started a war or went into battle, we went in prepared and expecting to win. And for the other side to lose. Win or lose; those were the options–no negotiation towards a common ground.

Then, should we not win, we were named the loser. And who ever wanted to be the loser? The winner takes all. History has always been written by the winners.

Yet throughout the years, in life and business, I’ve endeavored to reach win-wins, to find solutions that benefit everyone involved and achieve a common good.

As a pacifist, I’m not at all stirred in any positive sense by militaristic language. As I’ve said so many times, in so many contexts, words matter.

The words we use shape the way we see the world and then act in it.

Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.

Yehuda Berg

I’m not attracted to weaponry. Weapons are intended to maim or kill or do damage. They don’t have the same function as tools, which are used to create and build and fix.

I’m not comfortable with the arbitrary option of “victim” or “survivor” either. Those words speak to identity, much like “loser” or “winner.”

Nah. I’m a tough cookie. Except for the cancer, I’m fine.

Lisa Scottoline

From the moment I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was committed to work together with the medical professionals I chose to try to “fix” whatever could be fixed with today’s knowledge and protocols. I knew nothing was certain yet I decided to follow the current science and let go of the outcome.

But whatever happens, I know with absolute certainty that I’ll not end up a loser. Along with my doctors doing the best they can with the tools they have, we will either fix my body or we won’t.

Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.  

Jim Valvano

Today, a cancer diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence, as it once not so long ago often was. There are better tools to fix the body; for some for a shorter term, for others a much longer term.

One thing is assured—one day I will die. Whether that is from cancer or something else remains to be seen. Dying is a natural outcome of birth.

And in-between I live.

At present I live while undergoing anti-cancer treatments. But I live, I don’t fight. I cope with good days and not-so-good days, but I don’t battle. I live to love, not to wage war.

My peace of mind—and lack of fear—will get me through this chapter.

When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer, you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.

Stuart Scott

I’m curious how my perspective on the words we use to describe treating cancer lands with you. Does it make you think? Do you agree with me? If not, why not?


  • I have been Waiting for you to have this conversation…to me fighting is not the metaphor that gets me through things. And people like Noddy referred to it as living with cancer. And she lived it well.

    I consider my body an amazing thing, A living thing. A collection of living things that no one can even fathom all of the workings and possibilities of. An entity I am honoured to inhabit and as such am entrusted to care for and honour and be grateful for.

    From your ongoing reflections, ponderings, questions, meditations it seems you are working this out together with your body, considering all of the offerings around you at this moment. And living, as we all should, every moment.

    Love you muchly, ‘Cisca.

    • First, Jenniekins, I must say I love you muchly right back! 💜 Little I can add to your thoughts, and yessSS, the body is a miraculous thing… and yet it does disappoint at times, no matter how well we cherish and care for it. 🌸🙏🌸

  • Very thought provoking Francisca! the other problem with being called a “survivor” is that it signals and forms, to many, your identity. Your identity is not being a survivor from cancer. You are so much more more than that. Being called a “survivor” is limiting and focuses on the disease.
    I liked to point out, during chemo and radiation, that I was unlikely to have cancer, (which was excised in surgery), I was just cleaning up the stragglers. And my illness was from the treatment, not the disease. Somehow that helped me.
    I hope it helps you.
    Sending you love and support my old friend. xo

    • YessSS, Jane! Any words that attempt to define us through this crap disease is so friggin’ limiting! I’ve LIVED and THRIVED for 66 years, and these past six months have had times of feeling like crap, but also times of joy and success. And yes, I likely also do NOT have cancer… this is preventive treatment I am undergoing now, horrific though it may be. Your love and support are accepted with grace and love back. xo 🌸🙏🌸

  • Lovely and insightful thoughts Francisca. A very pointed “unraveling” of the warrior language and consciousness underlying decades of healing cancer. Makes me think if we could use other imaginative metaphors, e.g. music to make the cells sleepy and slumber away in their own happy land. Inspired by the saying – music soothes the soul. (smiley face here)

    • YessSS, Rose! Music soothes the body, too! There’s a research team in the UK that has studied alternative metaphors, and music was one of them. Others included difficult journeys and fairground rides. 🌸🙏🌸

  • A beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing you thoughts on this very crucial mindset. I love the part when you said, “At present, I live while undergoing anti-cancer treatments.” Emphasis on live and not fight.

    • Exactly, Gayle… it’s living that interests me, not fighting! When I do die, I don’t want to be remembered for this crappy chapter at all! 🌸🙏🌸

  • I gather that what our T-cells are supposed to do is in a way going to battle, so in that sense one’s body does battle with cancer, viruses, bacteria (etc.).
    However, one’s own psychological response needs to be framed around one’s own personal needs. Seeing it as one of life’s passages, part of the journey, the experience, is one way, and perhaps more accurate, but each person needs to rise to her or his own situation in her or his own way.

    • True, Jill, a cancer patient should be encouraged to use whatever metaphor works for them. And as I’ve said, for me, I’m more interested in living than fighting, and this is just one among my many many interesting life chapters, the one in which I face my disappointing body and work to try to fix it… It’s certainly not the chapter I want to be remembered for. 🌸🙏🌸

  • I love your last line! “ My peace of mind—and lack of fear—will get me through this chapter.” It wraps up the sense of “no fight” given all the monstrous and war-winning shadows (as your post so we’ll described) with intense power.

    You are such a brilliant light. I am so glad to be a witness to it.

  • Brava, dear friend! You always have such a wonder-full way of helping people think from a new perspective. The militaristic way of talking about all aspects of life has made a thorough mess of things in so many areas. We could use a lot less of it.

    • Thank you, Lable. 🌸🙏🌸 Yes, we could do with a whole lot less “violent” imagery and words in all spheres. I wonder whether mankind will ever see a world without war. Not in my lifetime, for sure.

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