A recent media commentary on Radio NZ suggested that it was time to declare war on cancerous clichés, saying that the medical profession had begun to question whether the use of military-style metaphors such as “battling cancer” are bad for a patient’s health. Doctors think that “viewing disease as an enemy or something that has to be fought against is not helping patients cope with their illness.” Health professionals are not the only ones protesting such expectations being laid on patients. Some of us cancer patients are also sick of being told we are engaged in a war on cancer.
The latest victim of such media clichés is National Party MP Nikki Kaye. Not only is she having to put up with the Prime Minister telling the world that “she is young, she is very fit, she’s extremely determined and she’s a fighter,” the NZ Herald’s political editor also saw fit to claim that “Nikki Kaye is battling breast cancer” and that “she won’t be just fighting cancer. She will be declaring war on it with every fibre of her being.” How dare these people think they have the right to publicly air their opinions about how anyone will deal with their cancer diagnosis!
As Mediawatch pointed out “when it comes to cancer there is one metaphor that’s long since become a cliché that just refuses to die.”
Apparently stuff.co.nz and the NZ Herald website has used the phrase cancer battle more than 50 times so far this year. “And one of those stories highlighted the fact that the person who had died refused to use the word battle to describe her experience of living with cancer.”
Well, if the story on the Herald website was the one about me that also featured a short interview in which I said very firmly that I was definitely not battling the terminal cancer I had been diagnosed with, then I feel the need to protest that the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.
“It is time that the media declared war on cancer clichés and stopped framing stories about life and death in terms of winners and losers.” I’ll drink to that!