[Originally published October 19, 2012.]
Dear People Who Use the “Battle” Metaphor for Other People Who Have the Distinct Displeasure of Cancer,
If I die of this relapsed, refractory Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, and you describe me posthumously as having “lost her battle with cancer,” I swear to God I will come back from wherever my soul may have been sent and haunt the living shit out of you for the rest of your days.
Perhaps you have never been in a real-life, actual fight or battle. Kindly allow me to explain, then, that a fight, battle, war, skirmish, or what-the-fuck-ever else you want to call it, is something that either adversary reasonably could win with superior manpower and/or firepower. Kindly allow me also to remind you that there is no cure for cancer. That’s why it’s not, you know, called “Breast-itis” or “Seasonal Pancreatic Syndrome” or “Bone Marrow Allergies.” It’s fucking cancer. And no one has come up with anything like, oh, a CURE, that—in keeping with your battle metaphor—can be compared to superior firepower.
That leaves us with superior manpower. Are you really fucking going there? Are you truly comfortable telling a cancer patient that, if his cancer doesn’t GTFO stat, it’s because he didn’t try hard enough?
I hope, for the sake of consistency, that you identify ALL mortals who die as Hapless Soldiers Who Lost Their Battles. Please tell me you do. Please tell me that, when your uncle died of a heart attack, you shook your head condescendingly and murmured that he had lost his brave fight with unseen cardiovascular issues. Or cheese curds. Please write back and regale me with the story of how you comforted your mother at Grandpa’s funeral by informing her, in an encouraging tone, of course, that he had simply lost his courageous war with Alzheimer’s. It’s too bad, you say (don’t you?), that those teenage pedestrians lost their battles with that repeat-offender drunk driver.
What? You don’t do that? You find these examples insensitive and cruel? Surely you jest. Certainly you must be willing to extend your impossibly high expectations of those of us with incurable illnesses to others who eventually must face mortality.
I’m sorry—come again? You believe it helps me to visualize an adversary? Rest assured, People Who Use the “Battle” Metaphor for Other People Who Have the Distinct Displeasure of Cancer, my relationship with leukemia is about as adversarial as relationships can be. If I haven’t been clear on this point, I’ll try to resolve your confusion now: a rare and aggressive form of cancer is trying to kill me, and its capacity to do so is not within my span of control.
OH! I beg your pardon; the fighting words seemed to work for your brother (before he was declared a courageous loser of his battle) so, since all cancer patients are the same, they’re perfectly appropriate to use with me and any others you may encounter. How comfortingly convenient… for you.
People Who Use the “Battle” Metaphor for Other People Who Have the Distinct Displeasure of Cancer, I hope this has helped clear up a thing or two. I hope you are no longer inclined to compound the challenges facing those of us with cancer by calling us losers. And I hope that, if you still can’t resist the temptation, you’ll be cool with my scary-ass ghost creeping all up in your shit until YOU lose a battle.