I lost my breast… why can’t I find it?

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about the language we use around cancer? Today I heard myself telling a friend ‘I lost my breast’. Well if I lost it, you’d think there would be a possibility that I might find it. If only!

And then, there’s the word ‘disease’. I prefer to use ‘condition’. Because a condition can be managed, can’t it?! A disease seems out of control somehow. Yet so many people do get through the experience of cancer and continue living a great life well beyond its reach.

The word ‘remission’ is another word I find difficult to use. In fact, I point blank choose not to use it. And I checked the dictionary just to make sure I’m not overreacting.

Re•mis•sion Noun: 1. The cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty. 2. A diminution of the seriousness or intensity of disease or pain; a temporary recovery.

I don’t know about you, but after all the treatment I’ve been through and all the work I’ve done to heal physically and emotionally , I’m going for a cure, not a temporary recovery. So it’s a word I choose not to use. Because I don’t like the suggestion that it could only be temporary.

Of course when doctors use the word ‘remission’ their definition is the medical one:

remission [rimish′ən] Etymology: L, remittere, to abate The partial or complete disappearance of the clinical and subjective characteristics of a chronic or malignant disease. Remission may be spontaneous or the result of therapy. In some cases remission is permanent, and the disease is cured (Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier).

But we’re not all doctors are we? And for us laymen, the term remission can imply the cancer may still be there, lurking around. I guess if I had a more advanced cancer and I achieved ‘remission’ I’d be thrilled. But when you’re going for a cure, the very idea of ‘a temporary recovery’ is not something I want to even consider.

I wonder what message the use of these words instil at a subconscious level? And I often question how it can be healing to use words that may imply the cancer is still lurking around. That it might come back. Who wants to live with the bogey man over your shoulder? Because science tells us the emotion of fear stimulates that part of the nervous system that shuts down your ability to fight off cancer. That’s something important to consider, isn’t it. And given this, it makes little sense to use language that can induce fear.

Many people don’t realise the power in the language they use. Because, like many things in life, cancer can be won and lost in the mind…

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