To explain something about my experiences, I like to use metaphors. I also see others using metaphors when they want to tell something about cancer and cancer treatments. One commonly used is warfare. That leads to expressions like “Fight against cancer!” or “I have already won this first battle”. Many are rightly disturbed by this, because it is a dangerous metaphor. It suggests that with the right plan of attack and the best army, you can conquer cancer. I recognize that problem. I had to bury my love three years ago and together with him and a whole team of adequate caregivers and many others, I really had done everything I could to avoid that. In documentation on cancer and cancer treatments, therefore, expressions referring to battle are rightly avoided.
Yet, it is also a pity that we may sometimes throw the baby out with the bathwater – just to use another goosebump-giving metaphor. We know the fear, the powerlessness and the destructive effect from (stories about) wars. Therefore, in some cases such a metaphor may help to express some strong emotions.
Perhaps the problem is not in the metaphor, but in the division of roles within that metaphor. As I mentioned in my blog post of April 14, as a patient I do not feel like one of the armed forces. In my experience, the national army in the metaphor is the representative of the collection of healthy cells I have, supported by my immune system. The insurgents are the cancer cells. The chemo is the army of mercenaries from other countries. I myself feel like the civilian population who, in the midst of all that violence, sometimes anxiously wonders what the future will bring. Will the scary insurgents win? With sorrow I see how the mercenaries also create devastation. And sometimes I also just wonder very practical things, such as whether it will be possible to get some more work done tomorrow. Or how to avoid getting in the way of the good soldiers by accident. And whether I could support them with healthy food. So no glorious gladiator role, but just trying to live every day – despite the violence in me.
I also noticed how incredibly resilient that national army of healthy cells turns out to be. When I was diagnosed, I was a bit upset that they just turned out to have lost quite a bit of ground, but those cells now deserve real respect with their ever-rebounding blood values. Therefore, I’ve prepared a nice meal for them again tonight.