Warrior or Weatherers? How Best to Deal with Melanoma Cancer

I’ve always been sensitive to the wording used casually to describe cancer patients. No matter the disease, it seems like others and the media put undue pressure on patients to be strong, brave and good warriors in the fight against the disease. They are told, “just be strong!” And if they lose the battle what does that makes them? The word survivor also takes this tone, like the person has come away safely from a weather disaster. I prefer eliciting a response like, “I am well now but cautious about the future?” Melanoma cancer usually happens because the immune system had a glitch whereas the DNA was damaged by an environmental factor or genetic predisposition. So why are we fighting a war when it is our own body that we are trying to rally? Instead, we’re saying, “Hey immune system – recognize this foreign body and disable its ability to colonize in distant parts.” You are working with your body not fighting anyone.

Having cancer, or any other life threatening disease, is exhausting. Communicating with friends and family and co-workers comes likely filled with distortion. Families under stress can act in bizarre ways and, of course, so can the patient. The ideal is talking openly and honestly about the disease and how it is affecting your life. Withholding information never benefits anyone. Cry together, laugh together, and love together with those close to you! Don’t let others pressure you into positive thinking. Coping styles, from helplessness and hopelessness to having a fighting spirit, have no difference in disease outcome, according to scientific studies.

If you don’t feel like being a brave warrior, then don’t! Get proper care and follow up, though. Realistic thinking is a great attribute to have, along with the proper knowledge you need to navigate the disease for best outcome. We are here to help you, but will never force a method of coping on you.

4 responses to “Warrior or Weatherers? How Best to Deal with Melanoma Cancer”

  1. Avatar Debbie Hennessy says:

    Thank you. Beautifully and thoughtfully written piece.
    Melanoma has changed my life forever. It has brought
    much pain and pressures, but also many blessings. I
    found myself to be exceedingly strong and resilient in
    the face of adversity. I do not take life for granted. I
    Celebrate every day, event the hard days, knowing we
    all have a limited number. I do not accept mediocre
    health care and have fired more MDs then I currently
    employ. Educate yourself. Be your own best advocate.
    Surviving and Thriving Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma since

  2. […] Poole, who runs the Melanoma International Foundation, talks about “fighting” words in a recent blog post. She refers to the unnecessary pressure that it puts on the patient. Do you lose the […]

  3. Avatar Joan says:

    I appreciate this comment. I think that if I cannot summon up a positive attitude I am hurting myself. Thank you for taking that load off. Your sensitivity to language leads me to comment on those who refer to fighting cancer as a “journey.” Got a lot of trouble with that one. Journey!?! It’s not a paddle down a lazy river. A trip over Niagara in a canoe, maybe. Maybe I am reading too much into it but fighting melanoma is anything but a “journey” for me. It is a rollercoaster of hope and despair, a hurtle into fear and sadness and sometimes a calm stasis of hope (that comes when I see my Doctor!). But this “journey” thing makes me wild. Hope I have not offended anyone by being so sensitive to this word.

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