As reporters and editors, we're constantly on guard for cliches, those oft-used phrases that drown originality. One that grates on me the most - but unfortunately is among the most common - is when a writer uses war metaphors to describe a person's death because of cancer.
You know what I mean: He fought a brave fight. She battled like a warrior. He fell short of defeating this enemy. And, the one used most often: He lost his battle with cancer.
What does that imply? Are we saying the cancer patient "lost" because he didn't fight hard enough and died? Maybe he wasn't tough enough. Perhaps he just gave up. He failed. In my mind, cancer isn't a battle, a fight or even a journey. It's an awful disease, one with the ability to kill people.
I thought about this "battle" thing again upon the recent death of Stuart Scott. The popular ESPN personality lived with cancer since 2007, enduring dozens of chemotherapy treatments. He had remissions and recurrences. He had ups and downs. He died last week at 49.
Many media outlets, including this newspaper, featured headlines about Stuart "losing his battle with cancer." Immediately, I recalled Stuart's own words on the topic, spoken at the ESPY Awards in July.
"When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer," he said while accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. "You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live." What a great thought! What a great legacy!
For more insight, I contacted Dr. Marc Rovito, medical director of the St. Joseph Cancer Center, who sees and treats cancer patients every day. Many, he said, when first diagnosed, vow with tenacity to "beat this thing." Some do. But, for others, there's an evolution of sorts as they come to terms with cancer, as they come to peace.
What matters is how you define winning, Rovito explained. If winning means not dying, that doesn't always happen. But, if winning means living life the way you want to live it, you can't fail.
"Be good to the people you want to be good to," Rovito said. "Love the people you want to love and give to the people you want to give to."
Cancer treatments fail. People don't. "You don't lose to cancer," Rovito confirmed. "Cancer doesn't kill hope. It doesn't kill love."
By Jim Kerr, Reading Eagle, January 12, 2015
A friend of mine is currently battling cancer. She beat it back once, but five years later it came back. She is winning because her spirit remains strong and she is still the same person she always was. Regardless what cancer does to her body, it has not changed or destroyed her. She is an inspiration to us because she is proving that cancer is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Here is the key to winning in the battle with cancer.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)