Let’s lose the cliche of ‘fight­ing’ can­cer. It’s about fac­ing re­al­ity

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

Your ar­ti­cle (Pres­sure to fight can­cer ‘may have neg­a­tive ef­fect’, 15 May) high­lighted the fact that telling can­cer pa­tients to “fight” their dis­ease only puts them un­der un­due pres­sure and stops them talk­ing about end of life. So much of the nar­ra­tive around can­cer fo­cuses on the “fight” against the dis­ease. While more peo­ple than ever will sur­vive, the re­al­ity is many peo­ple will still die from this ill­ness. Plan­ning for death shouldn’t be seen as giv­ing up. Of­ten, it’s about tak­ing back con­trol and pos­i­tively manag­ing the con­di­tion.

At Marie Curie we be­lieve lan­guage around ill­ness is im­por­tant – we try not to use words like “war”, “bat­tle” or “fight”. The peo­ple we sup­port have a ter­mi­nal ill­ness, whether it’s ter­mi­nal can­cer or an­other con­di­tion, and we fo­cus on en­sur­ing they have the right care, in­for­ma­tion and sup­port. It’s vi­tal to start th­ese con­ver­sa­tions early, so peo­ple can make their fi­nal wishes known. If this hap­pens too late, or not at all, not only can this af­fect the per­son’s end-of-life care but their fam­i­lies can be left suf­fer­ing feel­ings of guilt or re­gret. Broach­ing what can be a dif­fi­cult sub­ject can have a pos­i­tive im­pact on how some­one sees their ill­ness and help their fam­i­lies better cope, so that they can fo­cus on en­joy­ing the time they have to­gether.

Elaine Hill

Deputy di­rec­tor of nurs­ing, Marie Curie

• At last it has been recog­nised by those at the sharp end that the per­cep­tion of “fight­ing” can­cer (or any ter­mi­nal dis­ease) can be not only in­ap­pro­pri­ate but coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. I am in the ter­mi­nal stage of em­phy­sema, and the no­tion of “fight­ing” is for­eign to my na­ture; I pre­fer to face re­al­ity and talk with

all con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing how and where I want to die. I’m not alone in this re­spect, and it was en­cour­ag­ing to read that a spe­cial­ist at Macmil­lan con­sid­ers peo­ple should be al­lowed to “de­fine their own ex­pe­ri­ence with­out us­ing lan­guage that might cre­ate a bar­rier to vi­tal con­ver­sa­tions about dy­ing”.

Many ter­mi­nally ill peo­ple want to talk (or write) about what a strange, dis­ori­ent­ing and dis­tress­ing ex­pe­ri­ence it can be, and make ar­range­ments for their death that will make things eas­ier for all con­cerned. I’m not young, but I’m go­ing to die be­fore I’d have liked, and prob­a­bly be­fore my hale 98-year-old mother, which makes me very sad. But I have told her about it be­cause it would be worse for her to find out after­wards that oth­ers knew and she didn’t.

All I can do is take each day as it comes, take the med­i­ca­tion, re­main as ac­tive as I can and de­rive as much plea­sure and joy out of life as pos­si­ble. Might we now look for­ward to the Guardian avoid­ing that tired cliche “after a long bat­tle with can­cer”?

Name and ad­dress sup­plied

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.