Stop telling me to fight cancer!

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People experiencing cancer are fed up with being told they are fighters and they’ll survive.

The hostile, negative war-like language that bombs a conversation becomes the emotional hook of cancer stories. Storytellers explosively describe how "he fought to survive and lost his brave battle" and the shrapnel from the blast breaks any hope of a peaceful cancer experience.

Winning, beating, fighting, surviving, winning the fight, losing the battle, cancer sufferer, cancer victim, cancer survivor, cancer lifer, stricken with, terminal, returned, journey, cancer free, remission, suffering from, succumbed to - she battled to the end but cancer was the winner.

The emotional bloodshed begins. 

The real facts about cancer and language are:

  • 68% of people have a fortunate prognosis
  • 15% - 25% of people are diagnosed with cancer specific depression
  • The proportion of words used by people is 50% negative, 30% positive and 20% neutral
  • Militaristic, negative and other language associated with death and dying may trigger fear and stress
  • The 7 most popular word used across 37 cultures are fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame, guilt and joy - only one is positive

It’s easier to hate than love and even easier to blame than take responsibility. It’s easier to hate what can’t be controlled, than love the things you can. It’s easier to hate than love when situations are unjust.

We’ve been using war-like language for forty years since President Nixon said we should, and it’s time we got much more sophisticated. And kind. That’s where #beyondcancerwar comes in.

Using the war metaphor perpetuates drama, which is the last thing anyone having a cancer experience needs. We’re calling on the media and government to change their language about cancer. If we can change the language, we can change the stories, and ultimately change the perception of cancer. And that’s a change that’s good for everyone.



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