Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cancer Metaphors Revisited

Rob has posted on Judy Freemans's comment in a Boston's Globe piece on Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent crisis and diagnosis of brain cancer ...

"Fight, Ted, fight!"

Back in March 2007 Christian, Lucia and I had a discussion on how cancer and people with cancer are semantically "dealt with". The metaphors and similes - "battle with", "fight against", "sufferers", "victims", "carers", "waging a war against" ...

We weren't happy.

Last week Own Your Health posted "To fight - or not to fight. Is that the question?" inspired by Ted Kennedy's problems. She misses the point but a US commentator picks it up ...

"... I never felt that I fought anything. All I did was put one one foot in front of the other, found doctors who were willling to fight for me, signed up for a clinical trial and then show up for my appointments , treatments and procedures.

The only fight I had was with my insurance company who initially refused to pay for anything.

I agree, it is a patient's choice. I've met other patients, dx'd with a lot lower stage than I, and chose to do nothing. Some are no longer with me.. But I never struggled with my disease. If I had any problems, I informed the awesome medical personnel, and they did their job and they fixed me ... again I did not suffer, I did not struggle, I did not fight.

I just put one foot in front of the other, and at that, they were baby steps."

Rob quotes the Wikipedia entry on Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor" in which she argues that cancer too often serves as a metaphor to explain the outward ills of the world and the inward failings of the person. She notes the peculiar reversal that "With modern diseases ... the romantic idea that the disease expresses the character is invariably extended to assert that the character causes the disease - because it has not expressed itself. Passion moves inwards, striking and blighting the deepest cellular recesses."

At first Nanda sought reasons for Kezia's leukaemia, blaming me, my family, something I'd done, my sins.


I and others have noted that Ted Kennedy was not rushed to some famous prestigious hospital such as John Hopkins but was admitted to his local general hospital.

The last word I will leave to Two Tony's correspondence with Shaun Atwood in Jon's Jail Journal ....

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