Monday, 22 June 2015
Media Accepted Cancer Language
I wrote this a while ago to send out to publications to see if they wanted to publish it and/or liked my writing. I have been in talks with one editor they said this topic has been written about loads before. I replied. Well then why do the media keep on using it if patients hate it?!? And then I saw 'Cancer Girl' in the Metro earlier in the week and thought, now is the time. If you know any jurnos, feel free to share this with them,.
Cancer sufferer. I hate that phrase. Along with cancer journey and winning or losing their battle with cancer. I know hate is a strong emotion to use in reference to words. But I really do. I read those media friendly approved words and phrases, by fuck knows who, which are also often used by cancer charities which does my head in, and feel rage.
But I think I'm allowed. As I am a cancer sufferer battling on their journey and winning. If you want to use the accepted language that everyone feels comfortable with.
Which I hate.
I do however have a fuck load of survivor’s guilt. Is it because of this language associated with cancer that you see everywhere? And have you noticed, as was pointed out to me by a friend who also follows me on twitter when I was ranting about this, that only cancer has this? You don’t hear of cardiovascular patients winning or losing nor with diabetics. Why is it cancer has this?
I do however have my own cancer language - chemo plague, the spots I get periodically which I blame my daily pill chemotherapy on. It could of course be hormones or maybe the cheeky bit of chocolate I had. But it's funnier, to me anyway, to call it chemo plague.
I have to laugh.
I also have a cancer card, an invisible thing I use to my advantage, normally when I don't want to do something. And once again. It makes me laugh.
I’m a TYA OAP – teenage young adult old age pensioner. I was diagnosed at 22 so fell within the TYA age bracket of 16-24. I am now at 30 a little bit beyond that but still feel my affiliation and allegiance to those TYAs, the lost tribe often forgotten about and The Teenage Cancer Trust will be my charity until the day I die. I wasn’t lucky enough to have access to one of their wards when I was diagnosed as there wasn’t one in Edinburgh, and my treatment was well, fairly horrific being ignored by a consultant who didn’t know what to do with me because I was about 60 years younger than the rest of their patients and generally speaking able bodied. When I started reacting to my treatment and showing severe intolerance I was told that I shouldn’t feel like that because according to the research I won’t. However, this is not a space for me to talk about that. Again. I have a blog. I talk about that there. A lot. Because 8 years after that happened, I still carry it around with me. Because you do. The Teenage Cancer Trust prevents this happening because they are amazing. So, I’m a TYA OAP, which also makes me laugh.
I am 'user friendly'. To look at me you would never know that I was diagnosed with old man's cancer (chronic myeloid leukaemia) when I was 22. And I am female. Making me a rare diagnosis. Which I must admit, I do like. I'm a middle child- any excuse to talk about myself! I have and always have had my hair. I'm not bloated from steroids. I don't have a Hickman line. I just take a pill every day. And deal with all the shit that goes along side it in the best way that I can. I do have an amazing therapist though who helps me through it all. She’s also my mother. No doubt against every ethical rule in the book, but for me, it works. Nothing better after a therapeutic sob to get a cuddle, to be embraced as you were when a child and reassured and comforted. A kiss on the forehead to remind me that it will all be ok. I still need that. Even though I am 30. My diagnosis in many ways catapulted me back to being 5 years old again.
This accepted language is good at tugging on heart strings - I get furious with charities for using bald 8 year olds or having words like 'you can't save me but you may be able to save the next person diagnosed'. I think that's dirty advertising to get money. And yes I know that's it's this money that helps support families of those 8 year olds currently in hospital on intravenous chemotherapy that I have never had. Or funding research into drugs that may help stage 4 breast cancer. It just doesn't help those still here. Still fighting. Urgh. Helpless to help those. Maybe that’s why I hate it all, it makes me feel helpless. I am now a therapist myself, a Naturopathic Physician. I like to help people feel better. To make them smile. And I can’t with those photographed in the adverts.
But then. Maybe this language used is all about you. Not about me. I am voicing something that I believe many going through treatment or who are beyond it feel. Or maybe I'm just writing this as a survivor. Urgh. Hate that. I am writing this as me. A 30 year old who walks around with enough Leukaemic cells in her blood stream to mean that daily chemotherapy is essential. But few enough that she looks normal and can basically live a normal life. Just waiting to see how the fatigue is on the new chemotherapy. Drug option number 4. Intolerant to the last 3. Last option. Let's hope this one is better.
I am not a cancer survivor or someone who is wining or won or fought or battled. I am simply living life the only way I know how to. I responded to the drugs. I didn't need a bone marrow transplant in the end. I didn't die. I shouldn't feel guilty because of this. And I do. Because of the media friendly language.