A "Battle" With Skin Cancer Isn’t a Fair Fight
As a metastatic melanoma survivor, I’ve really come to dislike the terms ‘battle’ and ‘war’ as it relates to fighting cancer. I read some very interesting words from a melanoma survivor in one of the many internet groups I’m in and it sort of inspired me to write this piece.
Why do we call a skin cancer experience a ‘battle’ or ‘war’?
Calling it a ‘battle’ implies that we had some sort of choice over our diagnosis. Do you know of anyone who voluntarily signs up for battle without the proper attack plans and weapons? No! This is something that we’ve been thrown into (against our own will) and are most likely, very unprepared. From the beginning, it’s simply an unfair fight. Cancer takes over our bodies in some way, shape, or form and we’re immediately on the defense. We likely had no idea it was even happening and we find ourselves fighting for our lives.
Chemotherapy and radiation might be trying to kill the cancer on our behalves, but I, personally, never felt like I was in charge of the tactical plan. I was certainly not any kind of commander and I didn’t call any of the shots. As a cancer patient, I had no clue the cancer was spreading to other parts of my body. It’s not like I knew there would be an attack in my lungs, heart, and brain and I could send support there.
Waging a ‘war’ means there should be some sort of winner
This brings me to my next point: going to ‘battle’ or ‘war’ with something and/or someone means there ultimately has to be a winner. This way of thinking puts pressure on cancer patients to win something they have absolutely no control over. As a cancer patient, I know I was at the mercy of my medical professional team and science. Yes, I believed in them, but I also felt some sort of social pressure to come out of this ‘battle’ alive. Which is completely unfair! Of course, I wanted to win, but as a cancer patient, I don’t need to feel guilty if my prognosis worsens. According to statistics, a metastatic melanoma patient is set up to fail from the beginning. Friends use terms like “you can win this” and “keep fighting” and while they have wonderful intentions, they perpetually pushing this ‘war’ mentality.
No one ever loses to skin cancer
Let me be clear. No one loses to cancer. They don’t give up and they don’t stop fighting. Yet, unfortunately, people still die from skin cancer. But no one dies because they weren’t brave or strong enough to face it. The melanoma community recently lost a fellow warrior. She was such a beautiful soul (only 23 years old) and her body left this world way too soon. But, she didn’t lose her battle to melanoma.
Creating a fair fight
If we’re going to call cancer a ‘war’ then we need to be able to have a fair fight. We need the proper research and testing to appropriately size up the enemy that is cancer. Chances of survival can’t be chalked up to pure luck, but it needs to be backed by science. If you’ve been affected by skin cancer (if you’re reading this I’m assuming you have) then please take 5 minutes and find an appropriate organization and/or platform to support (financially or otherwise). Skin cancer research needs our support. Skin cancer patients (current AND future) need our support.
How well have your skin cancer diagnoses been explained to you?