A few years ago, I met some women who expressed that they don't like to say that they're "battling" cancer because they want their journeys to be peaceful ones. When I met them, “peaceful” didn’t seem like to best way to describe my dealings with cancer. I showed no evidence of disease, and I felt victorious, triumphant. Therefore, cancer seemed like a battle to me, one that I’d won.
It’s taken me years to process their thoughts about the word “battle.” I'm more of a lover than a fighter. But when necessary, I have the ability to channel my inner MMA Fighter self, and I'm not afraid to let her out.
Cancer as a battle
The dictionary defines a battle as:
- a hostile encounter or engagement between opposing military forces, and
- any conflict or struggle.
Cancer is without a doubt a hostile encounter and a conflict and struggle. Cancer is a battle, and people are fighting. I consider myself a peaceful person, but cancer can be a force to reckon with. I knew I was going to battle, and I prepared for my treatment like I was going to war.
But as I received my fourth cancer diagnosis and my third cervical cancer recurrence earlier this year, I found peace in knowing I was prepared. Physical strength and health have been vital in my successful treatment. I had been doing CrossFit for more than a year before my most recent recurrence. My mind was strong because I knew that my body was strong and prepared for the brawl I was entering.
New ways to talk about cancer
While I feel that cancer is a battle, I'm not a fan of saying that people are "battling cancer." It seems clichéd, a knee-jerk statement. To say that you’re battling cancer gives cancer more power than it deserves. It makes it an equal contender in the fight when, in reality, we patients are stronger than cancer could ever hope to be.
Maybe we need statements like "Linda is attacking cancer." We can choose to use words that give us power over cancer mentally.
People often say, "Cancer sucks." It does, but I often tell people that I think cancer is saying, "Linda sucks."
I’ve certainly felt the toll it’s taken on me, which is why it often feels that cancer is telling me this. Cancer treatment takes plenty from daily life. For me, six weeks of daily radiation two hours from my home and weekly chemotherapy impacted my daily life considerably. It’s meant less time with my family. It has been exhausting, and the side effects have been demanding.
Mind over matter
While cancer treatment has taken control of many of the daily activities of my life, including exercise, I'm still not willing to let it control my mind. My mind and I will always have control over the cancer that is renting space in my body. I'm choosing to rest and walk instead of run. I’m making these choices not because cancer is making me, but because this is my body, and I'm choosing to allow it the rest and rejuvenation it needs to gain strength. In this way, I’m doing battle, but I’m doing it in the most peaceful way I know how.