It happened again today.
The front page of the local paper paid tribute to a local elementary school principal who died from cancer. The headline read “Mrs. Smith Loses Battle with Cancer.”
“Loses battle with cancer.”
What a slap in the face to the memory of Mrs. Smith. What a slap in the face to her grieving family, students and colleagues.
Mrs. Smith, the article continued, died at the age of 52, after battling cancer for nine years.
Nine years, ladies and gentlemen. Nine years of testing, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Does anyone who endures nine years of cancer treatment, sound like a “loser” to you?
Cancer, or any chronic illness, is not for wimps and certainly not for losers. I have never known any cancer patient (and I know and have known thousands, many still living and some who have passed away) whom I would describe as “losers” or having “lost their battle.”
One only needs to take a look at the Memorials page on www.pmppals.org to see that there is not one single loser among the tributes. On the contrary; our memorials page is filled with tributes to brave warriors.
I have always found it disturbing to hear that any cancer patient has “lost their battle with cancer.” Imagine if we referred to deceased soldiers as “Sgt. Jones’ body was returned to his family in the US for burial after he lost his battle with the Taliban.” The public, including family, friends, veterans’ groups and politicians would be outraged, by such a statement, and rightfully so.
As an incurable cancer patient who has been fighting a fifteen year battle I am outraged by what appear to be daily reports in the media of celebrities and neighbors down the street “losing their battle with cancer.” As a patient advocate who has witnessed the bravery of thousands of my fellow patients, I am offended.
Ad an editor who has written more obituaries than I care to count, I simply will not allow the phrase “lost their battle with cancer” to be included in any obituary that I post.
The human body was designed or evolved (take your pick) to live a finite number of years, give or take 75. One way or another, either due to chronic illness or so called “natural causes” the physical body expires.
We don’t describe a deceased 76 year old who died of “natural causes” as having lost their battle with life. Whether a human dies as a 6 year old leukemia patient or a 76 year old with atherosclerosis, that person’s humanity and spirit far outlives a few mere decades of physical life.
The physical body is temporary. The essence the person who lived in that body is what we remember; what they taught us, how we enjoyed knowing that person, how having that person in our lives made us feel better, how that person contributed to the good of his/her family, community or the world…these are the factors that truly matter.
These are the factors of survivorship and survivors don’t lose the battles; their positive influence on those whose lives they touched while they were alive, always remain and lead to victory.
This is an excerpt from the book “Cancer Can’t Defeat Us!” by Gabriella Graham/ Copyright © 2012 by Red Tailed Hawk Publishing/All rights reserved.