My most recent struggle with the verbiage around cancer treatment occurred today in the
waiting room at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute, where I go three days every week for
blood work, and every two weeks for chemotherapy. The featured magazine there is called
Conquer, a glossy, upbeat publication with articles about nutrition and health, hopeful accounts
of remission, and advertisements for head covering. It is not the kind of magazine you would
wish to find in the seat pocket on an airplane. Sky Mall is much more fun to read.
I take issue with the title, Conquer, as in “conquer this horrible disease.”
Is that what I am supposed to do here? Why the emphasis on aggression? Am Isupposed to
feel empowered by a patient featured in a recent Sloan-Kettering ad, who
“kicked cancer’s ass?” This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured a radical new cancer
treatment called Cyberknife. Even in childhood, I remember the discomfort and confusion I felt
when president Nixon declared a “War on Cancer.”
Today, I have no energy to fight. My body is already in a struggle, and I am exhausted. I am not
looking for euphemisms, i just see little value in applying such negative terms to a treatment
system whose ultimate goal is to bring my system back to wellness and equilibrium.