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The metaphor was inevitable.

Moments after the news of Sen. John McCain’s brain tumor reached the internet, he was being pinned with the badge of the cancer warrior.


None other than Barack Obama joined in on Twitter:

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  • President Nixon declared the “War on Cancer” back in the 1970s. The metaphor stuck. Some “battles” have been won, butut we’ve yet to win the war overall. Sometimes, it feels as though cancer is a “medical Vietnam.” I was diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer (Gleason 6) in 2010. I declined the aggressive treatment–prostatectomy–that a urologist pushed on me. I declined. So I call myself a “conscientious objector to the War on Cancer.” I was lucky. I did nothing and cancer never advanced. The war metaphor is tired and overused. Did I actually win a battle against cancer?

  • When my wife was being treated for a glioblastoma, we never felt like the warrior or fighting metaphors were right for us. For me in a fight there is a winner and a loser. And while my wife died almost a year ago, she was not a loser and the cancer was not a winner. She just did what she needed to do to get from one day to the next with grace and strength.

  • I don’t like the military language at all; especially, as one of the responders pointed out, because it blames the victim, and it is a fight we will all lose. I would prefer to accept my illness, live well with it and good make use of the time I have remaining. No battles for me. My illness will help me to leave this life, I hope with much gratitude and graciously. I intend to “go gentle into that good night” indeed.

  • Bob, thank you for a much needed discussion re: understanding of life, cancer, death,…. Maybe if we, as a world, had an understanding of death, we would understand the insanity of war.
    Carol, RN and widow

  • As someone who has had major 3 cancers so far (and a couple of minor skin ones) I really hate the entire war metaphor. This is not a war, I am not a warrior and I am not “fighting” a war. I am doing/taking treatment that may or may not work and I actually have very little to do with that outcome.

    As someone in the article pointed out then if you are having a tough time it becomes your fault that you aren’t “fighting hard enough” (a corollary is that entire crap about attitude and if yours isn’t good then it is your fault you aren’t getting better – sorry but cancer is an emotional earthquake and just like grief where you don’t tell someone to have a good attitude when they are grief stricken neither should cancer patients be told this).

    Cancer is what I have (and one that I have has no cure) and it is not who I am. Please don’t tell me who I have to be just because I have cancer. We don’t to this to people who have had strokes, heart attacks, etc. Why do this to people who have or have had cancer?

    • I so agree. I too have had 3 major cancers and still living with one hanger on. I have also had a major heart attack. I am not fighting a war. I am not even fighting to live. The drugs I have taken have kept me alive so far,when they stop working,I die. Not a war at all.

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