Like the disease, the language of cancer is complex and unique. It’s filled with potential land mines and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I get it. As a coach, I believe strongly in the power of language, the words we choose, and the energy they generate for us. Normally, in my work with clients, I support them to find the terms that energize and inspire them.
Unfortunately, as of late, the cancer community has lost some incredible leaders and advocates. As the seemingly unending sad emoticon-peppered announcements of young people gone too soon swirled through my newsfeed over the past month, I found myself struggling with those stating these amazing people had “lost their battle” with cancer. The logical part of my brain can rationalize this turn of phrase but the rest of me is not okay with it.
Words can be both inspiring and limiting. They are only one small part of our larger experiences. You can’t touch them or taste them, yet we expect them to capture and communicate our deepest experiences, our greatest hopes, our most humbling moments as well as our extraordinary ones. It’s a lot to ask a collection of single letters that, on their own, have no meaning.
These cancer heroes fought hard battles, but in my mind, they could not and did not lose. Cancer didn’t win. They did…by standing up and taking it on the chin over and over…by becoming advocates, by giving a voice to once silent populations…by changing laws, legislation, and guidelines for research and care.
If we’re going to accept that they lost, then we have to consider the notion that, in the end, we will all be losers – we are all destined to lose our life to something at some point. Is the end of a life a loss when someone has lived an impactful life? Absolutely. Did someone lose just because they took their last breath? Not in my book.
In one of my recent blogs, The Language of Cancer, I wrote…
…don’t give away your power to it….There is no intention to harm; there is only a desire to communicate. Do not let the limitations of letters strung together cause you stress or drain your energy. That is much better spent on healing, doing things you enjoy and living your life. Ultimately the impact you allow language to have on you is your choice.
Wise words, indeed, but not necessarily the easiest to live by for any of us, including me some days.