Friday, October 3, 2014

FIGHTING THE BATTLE? Words of War in Well-Being

We have been talking about how language defines and signifies communities and individuals.  Before we embark upon reading what I consider one of the most beautiful works of literature that is, in fact, a story of war, we will explore the language of war.  Specifically, we will look at various texts that were written/spoken/published, taken from a time when the whole world was at war.  What defines this language?  What literary tools and techniques are used to communicate the agenda and purpose?
In this week's article, we will discover that this very unique language of war has seeped into other realms of life, specifically the realm of health and well-being.
In another context, I recently read a quote from a young boy who has been living with cancer that broke my heart:  "I know that I am going die.  I have accepted this and I am at peace with it now.  But somehow, I feel that I am letting everyone down because I have lost my battle.  I feel that maybe I just didn't fight hard enough...that in dying I am not just leaving, I'm losing."

Once again, we see that our words and how we use them have power.

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/wounded-by-the-language-of-war/ 




51 comments:

  1. I am very uncomfortable reading this post. I cried a few times as well going through this. When I read the quote about this little boy it broke my heart as well. It hurts to see a young child accepting that they wont get to live their life with friends, family and know what it feels like to actually experience the joys that come with life. I am terrified of death, because I don't want to leave this world and then there be nothing. Some may argue that, "oh, you wouldn't know you died if that was how things worked". However, how can anyone be okay with that thought. The thought that once you die, nothing is there for you. I feel that people who believe in a religion are lucky. I have a hard time with this, I don't know why I do, but I will be honest, I have a hard time with religion. But they are very lucky. They have something to look forward to. They don't have to worry as much because they will have a place to go.
    I have a hard time talking about death and the "fighting of battles" because I have lost my father at a very young age to a brain tumor. And because I haven't grieved properly, it is still embedded into my head. However, I am lucky to have had him as my father. I can say this because in my eyes, he didn't "lose". Yes he may have passed away, but he was a successful physicist and, he lived I believe 7 years longer then he was supposed to. He held onto life like there was no tomorrow, and he spent his last years doing all he could to spend time with me, even though he was bed ridden and I was kept from him by family. He was a strong man and made it through many tests and new treatments that were tested on him. This is why I cannot say he lost.
    I don't believe that there is such a thing as losing a battle to any disease either. You don't know what the person went through to stay alive during the time from when they were diagnosed till they had passed. It's a hard concept, but they have to have the strength to believe that they will make it through their condition to hold on to life as long as some people do.
    However, you do have the people who get to live their lives to the fullest. I am glad these people get to do this, even if I don't know them. Life is a privilege that not everyone gets to have and or keep. These people are very lucky to have lived their life to the fullest potential that it would have allowed. It is heart warming to know that these people realize this and say their goodbyes with smiling faces before they leave their loved ones.
    Now, I don't know how I feel about using "war terms" for medical problems honestly. But they fit, because the people that have these diseases have to trust that their bodies will be able to fix whatever is going on within them. I feel that could be where the terms come from. Because the individual themselves have to have the faith in really, their bodies and in themselves to keep going through the pain that they are pushing through. It's a hard topic to address in my opinion because not everyone at this time has lost a friend or a family member who was very close to them, or even their other half. Which leaves this up to the individuals experiences to judge how they feel about this topic...

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    1. First, let me express my deepest and most sincere condolences in the loss of your father. I loved my father something fierce, and it killed a part of me when I lost him. I am sorry, and I am sending you a big hug through cyberspace for what you have had to endure so young in this loss. He would be proud of you, that much I know, for the bright and articulate young woman you are today, and for the way you can discuss this loss and how it affects you so openly.

      Death is a mystery, and it is one we all share. My dad loved the quote: Life is a game in which no one gets out alive." He would laugh. My dad had a strong faith. I knew he wasn't afraid of dying, but he sure loved life to the fullest. I miss him everyday, but you're right, there is a comfort to be found in a faith like that.
      I agree, while I sympathize and my heart breaks for those facing a disease like cancer, I do understand the use of battle terms. Cancer is an enemy. I think where we do need to be sensitive is that if the disease ultimately takes us, it is NOT our "battle loss," nor is it something for which to be ashamed. Maybe while disease is the enemy, death is not...maybe it is part II of a journey. Maybe ultimately, it is a win of a different kind.

      A lot of maybes, but that is how it is with mysteries, right? Someday, we will know. For now, I think instead of telling those who suffer to "fight on," I'll opt to give them a big hug and say, "I'm here...in your corner with you."

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  2. The article was very sad and I’m honestly not too sure how to respond to it. Death is something I don’t like to think about it the thought of it is scary and really just sad. When it comes closer, I agree with the article that people are more afraid of letting down their loved ones than actually facing death. Spending your last moments with those you cared about would be far better than having to sit in a hospital and undergo operations with everyone encouraging you to fight on when you have nothing left to fight with and you are stuck with the torture of thinking about your loved ones and how you are leaving them behind and will never see them again. Death isn’t as scary as loss. Those may seem like the same thing but I think of them in a different way. Everyone and everything eventually dies and nobody really has an issue with this. There are wars and killing that happens constantly and people as a whole don’t care so much. If everyone cared then there wouldn’t be wars and fighting but there are and society as a whole is okay with this. It’s individual losses that truly scare us. It is when we lose someone we are close to (not necessarily through death) that tears our hearts apart.

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    1. I LOVE how you differentiate here between death and loss. VERY poignant. It is the loss we fear...the saying goodbye...more than death, I think. I am really glad you brought that up.
      While I sincerely do understand why we refer to cancer as "the enemy," and the illness as "a battle," (it does work VERY well as a metaphor, and I think it makes it more concrete for us) I love how the article points out our need to ultimately listen to the soldier fighting the battle. As I said to Ashley, maybe he/she is choosing to "win" in a different way. Then, we need to drop the metaphor and just be real.

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  3. The article was really sad, but it completely opened my eyes to a new perspective. I have never realized how selfish it is for a loved one to make someone who is dying to keep fighting. Who wants to live their last days trying to fight? It's so exhausting and ugly. Everyone knows that they're going to die one day and to see how selfish someone can be to force someone to keep fighting something that they know they're going to lose is really upsetting. I understand that family members and loved ones don't want to lose anyone, I get that, but if everyone knows they're going to die, why waste it on trying to fight it? When the article said: "To spend one’s final weeks or months free of that pressure can be “potentially transformative and beautiful,” Dr. Johnson said. Often, though, to “give up” has become shameful." it made me really think about how society transformed death into something to be shameful. If someone dies when they could've 'fought harder' it upsets people that they just gave up. I don't think they should remember their loved ones as people who gave up. I think they should see them as people who lived their lives to the fullest. Even if it wasn't for very long.

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    1. It made me look at things differently, too. Mostly, it helps us be more sensitive to the plight of those who are living with a deadly disease.

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  4. After reading this article I looked up the meaning of the word 'war'. Many came up but this one was brought to my attention; "war is a sustained effort to deal with or end a particular unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition".
    I like how it states unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition because no one likes to live their life's with the fear that one day we might pass away, that one day we might get this horrible disease and our family and friends will slowly watch us pass way and personally the worst, that one day I might wake up and have found out that someone close to me has passed away. Diseases are not asked for and certain situations between life or death shouldn't even be real but sadly they are.
    This article spoke to me in many ways; most of my family members have had cancer and many other diseases. It's sad to say that only a few have won the war. Thankfully my step dad won the battle. I remember finding out he was diagnosed when I was only 9 years old and until I was 11 was when the cancer was fully gone. I don't know if it was the thought of him being in pain that scared me or the thought that I would be loosing my best-friend and that my mom will loose her soul mate all at once. Many people are selfish when it comes to their own family members passing away because we are scared. Of course our lives will change after a passing that affects us directly but sometimes we just have to accept the fact that if we let go they will no longer be in pain. Personally, if I had to choose between life of death in any situation like Rae LeRoy in the article; I would have chosen the same exact as she did. But I might be not be as lucky as she was, I might not be able to live a fulfilled life. That's something everyone has to think about. Even though this is terrible, I always have death in the back of my head. I frequently think that If I keep putting things on hold I will never live a satisfactory life in the end and I will constantly be living with regrets.

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    1. I love that you looked up the definition of war first. Very wise. And when looking at the definition, it does, actually fit what a person is facing when they have a disease. Maybe it comes down to deciding is this a war I wish to fight, or is the cost of fighting it too high?
      We are all selfish when it comes to losing a loved one, for sure. I am VERY glad your step-dad won his war with cancer. :) That must have been terrifying for your family to go through. Thank you for sharing the story here!

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  5. This article really touched home with me. From my experience with my grandfather dying from cancer to books I have read to even friends dealing with the death of others dying from disease. Something that really stood out to me in the reading was the question, "Is "fighting," which presumably means using everything in the armanmentarium, the only way to show courage at the end of life?" I was stopped by this question. To be honest I find it more courageous to let yourself die than to fight. I find it extremely heart breaking when people force their family members to fight cancer. Now I don't put down fighting because there are some people I have had in my life that I wish I would have kept around longer and maybe I would have if they "fought harder", but when I reflect on my own emotions and thoughts about the situation, I find that I am a very selfish person. I find that the reason people push those that are dying to fight is because they can not stand the thought of living with out them and can not handle the emotions that will come with their death, but what is interesting is it is all for themselves. Very rarely do people just let a person die that they know or are close to especially if their is a way to fight, but sometimes we need to sit back in their shoes and see the "hell" they are going through to stay alive.

    This article reminded me of "My Sister's Keeper" and "The Fault in Our Stars". In My Sister's Keeper, this type of situation is shown by the controlling nature of the mother over the daughter and how she even states that she does not know what is best for her because she is still young. How she even created her younger daughter to be a donor for her oldest daughter to keep her alive. The mother was making the youngest daughter suffer in order to save her oldest daughter and it wasn't until her oldest daughter was about to die that she finally gave her up.

    In The Fault in Our Stars, the author lets us see from the cancer "fighters" point - of - view and how they do not even want to be known for fighting a battle and have lost, but instead be focused on who they were and the things they had done with their lives.

    I guess it all comes down to selflessness to lets those we love go in peace. It's not a war, it is just a hardship.

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    1. Very well written. Your focus on the question posed by the article really resonated with me. I also loved the books you mentioned and they really were great comparisons.

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  6. This was a very informative article, and it has effectively presented issues with the spreading of the language of war into health. We have turned sickness into a battle, with survival being victory and death being defeat. As the article said, if "immortality has become the only victory, we're all failures". The article talks about the negative effects of this, and how applying the language of war, the fight and the battle, can cause guilt in those who are sick.

    I would like to take a moment to examine the bit of truth to the use of the language of war. If we consider such things as the struggle against cancer to be a war, a fight, then we have to think of all the aspects of a war too.

    People don't fight a war just to fight a war. The leaders in charge may start a war for ridiculous reasons, and they may not be very strong. However, the soldiers and common people who actually fight the war have to have something to fight for, and it must be something worth the horrors of war.

    The same is true of those struggling with sickness, disease, cancer, and all other medical conditions. Their war, fought with all the armaments at their disposal, is extremely difficult. Oftentimes they must be willing to undergo huge amounts of physical pain and discomfort, as well as mental challenges. We do not ask our soldiers to fight a war for the sake of fighting a war, but we would be doing just that if we asked our loved ones to fight at the expense of themselves, to strain their body and soul, in order to spend the last hours of their life in a hospital.

    I had a Great-Grandfather who died from cancer years ago. He refused treatments. At the time, I did not understand why he would not want to get better, why he would choose to let himself lose that battle. Now, I believe I understand him better. He did not want to spend the last hours of his life straining himself, spreading himself out well past his natural capabilities until life became absolutely miserable. He wasn't going to enjoy life, or spend time with his friends and family, he would have merely not been dead for a while longer. He was already paralyzed, and had been in very poor health. There was no reason for him to fight that war, and so he chose to end on the highest note he could.

    I do not mean at all that the death of a loved one is not an extremely powerful thing, or that I would not wish for someone to fight their hardest. What I hope to point out is that if we are going to make illness into a war, we need to accept all the meaning that comes with that. The peaceful death might be worth more than the experience of dragging the fight on for as long as they can. We want our loved ones to be happy, and we have to remember that happiness for them might not mean living as long as possible, but rather as happily and meaningfully as possible.

    -Duncan Robinson

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    1. Beautifully said! Yes. I loved that you pointed out that if we are going to make illness a war we fight, we need to accept every possible meaning that may come with that metaphor. Each case is so different. It is just important to realize that we must respect their personal choices.

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  7. It is a very depressing situation we as a society have created for these people. It's even selfish. We say things to them like "keep fighting," or "don't give up," but in all reality we are saying those things to make ourselves feel better. Cancer patients or those with any other disease can't just whip out a gun and shoot the bad cells or bacteria away like in war. There are treatments, yes, but often they make the pain and weakness greater than if they let things run their course.

    Now, I'm not saying we should let people who have cancer just die but there is a certain point where, as family and friends, we need to let the people in pain make the choices. Let them decide if they feel better with the medication and tests and treatments and doctor visits. Maybe the one year they would get without a doctor would be more meaningful to them than the 3 were more than half that time was spent at the doctors.

    I recently read the book "If I Stay." While the girl doesn't have cancer she is still in a situation where she struggles to decide whether to do what she wants or to do what would make everyone else feel better.
    These words of war we are using to these people only makes them feel weaker. Life is in the hands of the beholder. I personally wouldn't want to feel like dying of a cancer I couldn't control was "giving up."

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    1. Love your answer. I had the same reaction. I especially loved this part of your response: "there is a certain point where, as family and friends, we need to let the people in pain make the choices. Let them decide if they feel better with the medication and tests and treatments and doctor visits. Maybe the one year they would get without a doctor would be more meaningful to them than the 3 were more than half that time was spent at the doctors." SO true, and that really says it all.

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  8. Reading this article really made me sad, actually. I thought about their viewpoint on using war phrases for a disease, and I hate that. I’ve seen many of my family members suffer through cancer just to stay for people who needed them. It breaks my heart, and reading this article made me think of one person, my freshmen year volleyball coach. I saw him everyday pushing him self just to be there for everyone around him. He was a coach, a teacher, a father, a husband and he “fought” everyday to be here for everyone who needed him and yet he was getting weaker. It killed me watching him suffer.
    What stood out to me in the text was when it said “She didn’t want to die, bloodied and exhausted, on a battlefield. She wanted peace.” Because I’ve heard on the radio and seen on T.V and watched my family suffer from some diseases only staying around for the people around them. Call me selfish, but honestly if I was ever diagnosed with a cancer and I knew going through all the procedures and surgeries would just leave me in more pain an agony then what I am already in, I would just not want to. I would not want to put up a “fight”. But I understand why its hard not to, when everyone looks down to you and says you’ve “quit”. I wouldn’t want to suffer, yet it would kill me anyways knowing my family and friends would think I had just “given up”.

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    1. I think you have really been able to empathize here with the people who suffer, and that is a gift. To be able to put yourself in someone else's situation and imagine what it would be like and what you might do makes you a good friend to those you might meet in life who are faced with struggles like this. There are certainly no easy answers.

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  9. The quote was pretty heart breaking, because I could never imagine a child knowing that they will eventually die of cancer. I honestly don't know how to comment on a post like this because, I personally have not been in a situation like this. Yet, this kind of reminds me of the quote Mrs.Carraway had on the chalk board. "I am in control of my life. I am the captain of my soul" I think thats how it is. I'm not quite sure, but with the little boy was pretty much the captain of his soul. He already knew what was going to happen with his 'game plan' of life and he learned to accept it. He's not letting it get in his way to keep going.

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    1. LOVE how you connected our quote in this way. :) Yes, it doesn't seem natural that a young boy should have to face death like that. Makes me so sad.

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  10. I don't love discussing cancer. I dislike how much it's a common norm in our society. Novels are about cancer. TV shows are about cancer. It's almost as if we've accepted the disease and used it to play with peoples emotions for entertainment purposes compared to look for a cure to the disease. Yes, it's good to have light on a dark situation, but cancer is a serious disease and I don't think the actual heartbreak and destroying pain it causes on families is shown anymore.
    As for if words effect the battle, I don't know. These examples are solid evidence about how words can effect someone's fight but I have never had a terminal illness to know. Can words help the outcome of your battle or is it really your fight?

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  11. This article was very touching, but at the same time sad. Death is a subject that most people don't like to talk about. This article talked about whether or not people should spend their last few weeks living in a hospital or free to do whatever they want. I defiantly feel that the scene that you are living in for your last few days of life affect the mood you are in, as well as the battle. As for the words, I feel if someone comes up to you and says you have one week to live, rather than you have one week to enjoy your life and spend time with your family, the second option will be much easier to control. The story in the article was very sad in here, as the doctors wouldn't let the lady give up her fight to survive, when that's what she wanted to do. Finally, they let her choose the way she wanted to die, and she chose to spend her final days with her family. I do believe that the scene and words you experience during your final days influence the fight you have against death.

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  12. This language is defined by whomever uses it. For the people struggling with cancer, it is a fight, it is a battle. You're battling every day to get out of bed, battling for your life. Once you're done with that fight, you have then survived. It is the same as those going through a real war with guns and knives. Everyday for those with cancer is a fight, and every day that you have woken up healthy and alive, you have survived. Being around things that make you happy may help you lift your spirits and help you fight harder, in the end it's all about how we view things in life. You could either say you're dying, or you could say you're surviving, that's how I'd like to think of it. "War is a game that is played with a smile. If you can't smile, grin. If you can't grin, keep out of the way till you can." -Winston Churchill

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    1. I LOVE that you brought in that Churchill quote. :) You are right. As a person who lives with Meniere's Disease, I know that when the disease strikes, everyday life IS a battle...or at least, it sure feels like one. When I am not suffering from symptoms, there is also that lingering fear in the back of your mind: is it coming back? If so, when? I think the battle terms are accurate, but we do need to be sensitive to what the idea of "losing" the battle means to the ones who are fighting them.

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  13. I dont really know how to comment on this. I think when we say positive things not only to ourselves but to others it really does have an affect on how we view things but if we put ourselves down with words and tell ourselves or even other people tell us we cant do it anymore it really does make you feel like you cant. I dont really know how to relate to the cancer situation but even if something is going to end bad stay positive and use encouraging words because it really does make a big difference.

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  14. This article really hit home. I know all too well what it is like to both watch someone you love struggle with life threatening diseases and to lose someone to a life threatening disease. I had never before thought of the connection that people make between dealing with diseases and fighting wars. I have always heard people say "battling cancer" but I never really took it to be a connection between war and illness. As to what defines this language, I'm not really sure. I don't feel as though there can be one definite definition of this language or any other for that matter. Everything is interpreted and defined differently by everyone. I do feel that word choice can definitely help in defining this type of language though.

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  16. "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein

    This article was very interesting yet very sad. The story in the article reminds me a lot of what I was dealing with not to long ago. I lost my grandmother two years ago to cancer so I know how bad the battle is. I agree with this article because having cancer is like being a part of war. You are fighting every hour, minute, second to survive, and you have to wait knowing that you could be gone any second. Personally, I do not think there is an exact definition for this language because diversity is always present. No matter what everybody will have different point of views on war/fighting for you life.

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  17. Many people avoid the topic about cancer. They might not feel comfortable speaking about the subject. I understand, and I know how hard it is to have a loved one pass away because of cancer. There was something said in the article that really stuck out to me. It was when the physician told the patient " You decided how you wanted to live, and know you get to decide how you want to die." After reading this, it just stuck with me. I kept thinking about it. Fighting a battle when you are sick and words of war are used similarly, or they can be looked at in a similar way. If you are fighting a battle of cancer and you wake up the next day, you have surveyed. Same with war, if you are in a war and the next day you are awake and alive, you also surveyed because you can live to see another day. At the same time someone else might view this a different way. It is all about the type of language used, and the people using that language.

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  18. This article was both very emotionally depressing and intriguing to listen to a different point of view. Until I read this article I had never thought of the Power of Words relating to health and war before. I always think that as generations pass we become more and more selfish. It was interesting to me that even when a person is on their death bed another people don't want them to pass on because they are afraid that they will miss their absence (selfishness). People continue to fight on because they are afraid of what their doctors and families might think. In our selfishness we have turned our medical/health world into a battle ground. I think that maybe we do this because in history we have been able to overcome battles in war that we have had no chance of winning. Maybe we do this because we think if we compare situations where we've learned we've had no hope and then we win then we can overcome these situations too in the medical world as well. I also think that this comparison stems from people wasting the time they have and that when they reach a certain point where they realize they medically can't go on they are not satisfied because they wasted this time. They then make their situation a battle for more time.

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    1. I hadn't thought about that feeling of wasted time coming into play here, but you make an excellent point about that. You are right; when supporting a loved one undergoing cancer diagnosis and treatment, I think listening to them, helping them through the tough times, and spending every moment you have with them is more important that telling them to "fight."

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  19. A couple of things first, this is probably going to be long, and most likely not at all sweet.

    First off, I think this subject isn't okay. Yes, we are supposed to be discussing "tougher" subjects, but I believe some things should be a little more off the table. There is no way to know what people are going through, and to think that some of us would only be slightly saddened by this article, or sad about cancer in general, is completely off. I do not want to talk about this subject at all. I'm not in a position to talk about it comfortably without getting angry, so I really won't.

    Second of all, in my opinion, you CAN NOT take the "language of war" and apply it only to cancer. Because do you know what that means? You must apply it to every single disease that everyone ever uses that expression with. And then you can't talk about how it's not okay to use that kind of language because it might make the person feel pressured.
    Because guess what?
    That's the whole point. People who are sick SHOULD be told to keep fighting! To say they shouldn't, it to say that it is okay for them to die. Terminally ill or not. There are all kinds of sicknesses. And I am not going to confine this to cancer. If someone has severe depression and suicidal thoughts, they are sick. That is a mental illness. Do we tell them not to fight, just because they don't feel like it, and since they already WANT to kill themselves, its probably inevitable that they are gonna die?
    No. You aren't going to say that, or think that. It's not gonna happen.
    I have just never, ever, understood the pedestal that cancer is put on, like it is the end-all-be-all of diseases, and that there isn't something worse than that, ever.
    I'm sick of people trying to be politically correct about everything, in the sense that they think they should stop telling a loved one to fight cancer or ANYTHING, because it may make them feel bad. I will show my utmost respect of their decisions but i will encourage them to wake up everyday, put on their boots, strap on their gun, and fight until they need to rest. And I will not care what anyone else says.

    I'm done. This wasn't okay for me to talk about, and I am deeply disappointed that since cancer affects so many people, the topic wasn't handled properly in my opinion. I doubt I made any sense, but it doesn't really matter at this point.

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    1. I am sorry you feel this way. I think though perhaps you may have misunderstood the point of the article here.

      The point is not that people should not fight their disease. Nor was it to put cancer on a pedestal. The point was to say that in some cases, like the woman of whom they spoke, fighting meant prolonging her agony. I watched my father in law die slowly and miserably, not because of the cancer in his case, but because of the chemotherapy. In his mind, he was in his seventies. He wanted the time he had with his family to be spent conscious not having seizures and throwing up from the drugs. He opted to end the treatment. I do not for a moment feel that he made a selfish decision or the wrong decision. He was fighting--he was just not fighting with the chemotherapy drugs anymore.

      This article does not address sicknesses like depression for the reason that while depression does cause pain to the ones who suffer, it is not life threatening if good treatment is found and followed very carefully under the care of a skilled professional and medical doctor.

      At any rate, I feel that the article gave me something to think about. I don't suffer from cancer or a life threatening disease, but I do suffer from a disease that causes me a great deal of pain and suffering when is flares up. I appreciated reading this, and I believe that others did too.

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  20. Cancer is something people usually avoid or any disease in conversation, but personally I am not afraid to touch on it. My grandfather recently "lost his battle with cancer" and one of my aunts is currently "fighting". I put those in quotations not to sound disrespectful but because I find these terms really stupid, sorry. When my grandmother died of Alzheimer's it wasn't because she gave up and quit "fighting" it was because the disease took over her body. There was no fight to begin with. Eventually we are all going to die and sometimes the people who have cancer realize its going to be what takes them. And I think thats the real winner, to come with the terms of a loss and accept it because trying to cheat it would be a hell of a lot harder. Using these terms and language of war to talk about cancer and so forth really anger me. It is not something to glorify and pretend isn't as much of a struggle than it actually is. You don't chose to fight it like Americans can do for actual war by joining the military. So in my mind it isn't a war its a personal issue that a person has to deal with themselves. (sorry this is all over the place, this weeks topic made me really mad)

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    1. So agree....especially in the case of Alzheimers. There really is not a fight to win nor lose. It is something that takes hold of the body. To me, winning is making the best of the time we have because it is so precious. I like how the article made the point that none of us will be "winners" when it comes to mortality. The question really is, and what I think this article is talking about is how are we going to make use of the time we have? Life is precious.

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  21. These are the kind of articles I love. The ones that totally demolish a familiar way of thinking and replace it with a beautiful truth.

    I think "cancer" is one of the scariest words. I know a teen boy who has terminal lung cancer and I find myself wanting to say, "Keep fighting! Don't give up!". I think most people do that. It's supposed to be motivational and encouraging. However, this articles got me thinking. I wonder how those words feel to a cancer patient. What if they're sick of fighting? What if they hear, "keep fighting" over and over again and they try as hard as they can, but nothings working. How much harder can they fight?

    I found it so interesting how they analyzed the language of war in this article. First of all, I was somewhat oblivious to the phrase "the language of war". I was thinking that
    "war" meant strictly military war. Now cancer, cancer is definitely a war. But its even harder, because you have no one on your side to help you fight. It all depends on you, and even then, it doesn't. That goes for any disease.

    The article was right, "And when people die, we portray them not as having succumbed to disease, but as having struggled to the very end before being vanquished by a superior foe". Honestly, when I see people with cancer or another disease, I pity them. I think everyone does. We tell them to, "keep fighting" when I'm sure they are as helpless as can be.

    One of the most interesting snippets in the article was, “Society sees death as the enemy, so it’s not surprising we turn to language that references war". I never thought of it like this before. The root of the problem is idea of certain death and the unknown. Maybe...just maybe...we should stop thinking of death as an enemy.

    To deal with this uncertainty, we use real world examples, like war. Almost like an attempt to try and understand. We have a good guy and a bad guy. They fight each other and the last person standing wins. But it's different with a terminally ill patient. They want to fight, but they don't know if they are too weak and no one can physically help them fight. It is so sad that the sick are so pressured to fight the fight. Like they don't fight hard enough.

    Rae's story is amazing. She chose to spend her last days without any chemo because she knew that she didn't want to "fight" anymore. So, she didn't. She enjoyed the rest of her time without pressure and worry and I believe that that is a fighter. A fighter against common belief. Rae looked past death as the enemy and with no enemy, there is no fight.

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    1. Truly beautiful analysis. I love your reflection here because you really took time to take this article apart. It came originally out of a blog of a woman who works in the health care industry, and I, too, like how she took time to closely examine how she and others in the field deal with the uncomfortable situation of how to deal with cancer and support those fighting it in the best way possible.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

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  22. The article was very eye opening, and left me to think for a little before I could respond. If I could group my thoughts into words, I would have to say the words we use to encourage fighting patients, are kind of selfish. Sure, no one wants to lose a loved one. Not to a disease, to war, to an accident, nothing. But when you see a suffering loved one not able to fight anymore, isn't it selfish to push them to keep going because you want to make yourself feel better?

    Sure, I wouldn't want to see a loved one die of cancer (as I already have), but sometimes a battle must come to an end. I try to stray from this topic, and thought about responding to this blog because it is not a topic I like to discuss.

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  23. This article made me very uncomfortable, seeing I've had lost family members to carcer. When a family member passes, in my mind they don't die they simply continue living in another time. When someone who as fought the battle of cancer or any sickness, has fought a battle because they had courage as if soldiers did going into war knowing they could loose their life on their voyage. This is a way of judging the person is trying to better themselves, to the ones who aren't sick think we're encouraging them but in reality it might be offending them or hurting them emotionally. Someone who is sick won't want to hear, "you're a fighter" everyday, he or she will want to spend their last moments with the ones they love. The cancer cells in your loved ones body are multiplying causing them to be ill enough loose their life. The way I worded the sentence sounds different then saying "she lost the battle of cancer." Those two ways of stating that can be in different ways, one might have more sympathy or one may not even care. Anyone who has passed away from cancer fought their own internal battle, no one can say they fought a battle with them, the individual did it them-self along with the support of their loved ones along side them.

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  24. It's so hard to see people go through a medical pain, or any pain for that matter. Knowing I have family members who have issues I want them to keep on going to push on, but seeing this made me realise the words I use could only make it worse.

    Cancer is a battle within itself, one that needs to end at some point weather cured or they pass. Rae understood that concept when she stopped her chemo-therapy. This is a rough topic, but it must be addressed that you can't force someone to fight inside with just your words. We should for sure encourage them that it will be okay weather they pass or are cured, but we can't ask them to fight. Our words do in fact have power, but we must limit it

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  25. I do see what the article is trying to say, but personally I don't completely agree. I don't have a personal connection to this topic, so I'll only say what I do believe. I think that anyone with a terminal illness should make their own decisions. But I also think that their close family members and friends have the right to be there until the end, encouraging them and helping them. Maybe not by trying to convince them to do things that they cannot do anymore, but by making their last days full of as much happiness as they can. If I had cancer and knew I was going to die, I would accept treatment up to a point. I wouldn't want to live my last days being treated. But I also wouldn't want my family and friends let me sink into a depression or give up. I would want them to be there with me, and encourage me to live the life I could. I wouldn't want them to also feel like they were giving up.

    But that's only me. I can understand why Geneva said what she said, but since I don't have a personal connection to this topic, then I can't completely say that I agree one way or another.

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    1. I think that when you said that those with a terminal illness should make their own decisions, well, that is really what the article is getting at. If I were diagnosed with a terminal illness, I would weigh the ultimate costs of treatment and all it entails and make a decision. But if in the end that cost me my life, I am not sure I would allow myself or anyone for that matter make me feel like I "lost" my battle.

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  26. I'm on the same page with some other people responding to this blog post. However, I don't think it was very accurate seeing they just took one family who's daughter had selfishly said she wanted her mother to live and fight against the cancer destroying her mother's body. There are other people in the world who are going through loss, and quite frankly, just don't want their family member to leave them. All of us are a little selfish inside, it's human nature. No one wants someone close to them to leave them by death. But the sooner we accept that this person may leave us in our lives, then the easier it may become to move on with the grieving process.

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  27. I really loved this article because I can see both sides. I try to except everything for how it is if I can not change it. I can't do anything so why let it bother me? If I can change it, and I want too, I will fight. I can see how it would be stressful for a person dying to constantly being pushed in there final days and not spending it enjoy themselves.
    If you've ever read the book Tuesdays with Morrie I would spend my final days like that. The book is about a dying college professor that touches everyone's lives that hears his story. He has a good combination of both I think, he still fights to stay alive but he also excepts it and spends his remaining time with friends and family while also inspiring others.
    Also while reading this I kept thinking about how people seem to have a hard time letting go. Not just with death but with relationships, "the glory days", "When I was skinny". I think there is a happy medium between fighting and living.

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  28. LOVE Tuesdays with Morrie! What an excellent parallel. I agree. It is a subject worth exploring because it touches us. Tough as it is, it touches all of us. :)

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  29. This article actually was about something I've been concerned about for a long time. My father is a veterinarian, and he often discusses quality of life issues with my family (albeit for animals). He believes that when recovery is highly unlikely and the animal is clearly in pain, it is best to let go. To me, that was exactly what the article was trying to get across. If you read The Fault in Our Stars, you could draw a comparison there. When fighting seemed pointless, Hazel and Augustus tried their best to make the best of the time they had instead of spending all their time lashing out at the inevitable. That said, quality of life comes down to the patient. If they want to continue, then good for them. But if they don't, let them make the most of what they have left, and enjoy it too.

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  30. I like how the article showed both sides of the argument between choosing "to fight" or to go in peace. I think that the main reason people use the language of war for others dying, or trying to get better is that in a sense they are both used in a similar way. When talking about both subjects, people talk as if trying to explain an extremely difficult subject, but sweeten it or make it easier for people to take and understand. When you look at it, it seems that it should be changed to the language of death, because with this language, it is generally used to help make death easier whether it be on an actual battlefield fighting a war, or in a hospital bed trying to better ones health and life.

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  31. This article was very mind opening. Death is such a sad thing and I think that everyone would agree with me. But I'm not quite sure what to think about pushing patients to live, I can't decide if it's selfish of someone to want someone to live to make themselves feel better or if it's an act of deep love to want your loved one to live and get through that tribulation. I think that no matter what those dying patients should push themselves to live because there's so much to live for, no one wants to just survive, they want to live life to the fullest.

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  32. Sorry for the late response on this blog post (and the other one that is soon to follow — my memory is only so reliable), but now that I have reread the article after reading it when it was first posted and having gone through the comments, I have a different idea about what I think now than I did when I first read through this.

    I don't like the fact that the article is using war language. As stated by you, using language related to war has seeped into many areas of human interaction simply because of the way people word things in order to portray their thoughts; as soon as one person calls cancer or any relative disease (be it mental or otherwise) a war, this sort of metaphor will spread to encompass all things related — and this doesn't just include illness, but this can even include politics or other common things involved in our lives. However, I was always one to take things literally to avoid confusion. When I hear words like "arsenal" and "fight", I think of legitimate wars, like WWII and the American Revolution. Never once have I even considered relating disease and other things to war, because war is specific to a certain thing — a physical event in which large groups of people fight to defend their customs and beliefs.

    I don't think illness is a war. To quote the article, "Society sees death as the enemy, so it’s not surprising we turn to language that references war." This is true. We often think of certain occurrences as struggles that can be overcome; but, this just doesn't apply to death. It's not something one can avoid. However, "war words make us judgmental". It's "disappointing" when someone refuses to "fight" or to continue on courageously. Death is inevitable, we're all destined to die someday. Perhaps the reason people are truly afraid of death is because they're not sure what comes afterwards, or maybe they're even afraid to be left behind and forgotten.

    Nonetheless, some people manage to find peace in their fate, as all people should if it's something that simply can't be avoided no matter the measures taken against it. These people want to live out their last days in this peace, having accepted their destiny, and not having to live through the pain to elude something that will eventually catch up to them.

    "If immortality has become the only victory, we’re all failures."

    I don't think war language pertains to this or almost anything outside of literal and physical war, I think it's dependent on the actual situation. Debates, yes. Disease? Not so much. As morbid as it may sound, you're going to die anyway. You may "win the battle", but you will never "win the war" — death was never a war. It's irrefutable. I don't feel comfortable applying war language to illness or anything related.

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  33. I agree. Love what you said, and love your arguments. I don't see death as the enemy, either. I see it as a part of life. Maybe that's why. It's funny: in this case, how you view life and death definitely comes into play. :) Will be interesting to see what people think after we read The Book Thief!

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  34. This was a bit sad to read actually. I can relate on two completely different levels, though. I had a grandmother that had to take many different kinds of medication a day. When I was a kid, I used to marvel at it and wonder why she wanted to do that. Then, as I got older, I realized that she didn't want to, she was made to. She always had a doctor's visit scheduled and was never really happy. Of course, I loved her and didn't want to see her that way, but I didn't want to see her go, either. Like Tiehen said: people are selfish.
    Then, there is my other grandmother that is 92 and a lot like the woman in the article. She was so full of life. Every year, she hosted an Easter get-together for our whole family (trust me, my family is huge...). She drove to town by herself and went for runs twice a day. As of now, she is "battling" alzheimer's. She does have a nurse that comes to her house once a week and people to watch over her.
    What I'm getting at is you can make the person do whatever you want, but from what I saw, constant hospital visits and medication is not what someone in that condition wants. For their whole life they've been making their own decisions and they don't want to stop when it's one of the biggest decisions. In my opinion, you should let the person have the ultimate decision as to how they want to live the rest of their life. However, the families should be informed of it and support it. It's human nature to not want someone you love to die or to be in pain, but you have to think of what's best for them.

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  35. Death is a topic I generally try to keep my mind off of. It's the great unknown, and I would rather keep it that way until I actually experience it. The idea that one "Fights" death off is an idea that I think I could agree with. If I were going to die, although I would like to spend all of my waking hours with friends and family, I think that I would like to fight as well. The surgeries, procedures, all of those may take some of the time that one would be with others, but the are also what could win you more time with those people. I think that the struggle with disease being embodied as a war is accurate, as that is actually what is going on inside your body. Viruses are battling your white blood cells. A struggle and a battle are synonyms to me, and a struggle is a lot of what these people have to go through. It's simply terrible that they must, but they may as well do all they can.

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