Monday, January 5, 2009


The Times' Well Blog did an interview with an editor at the paper who has begun blogging about his experience with prostate cancer. He sounds like a great guy and has interesting things to say, but I wanted to highlight for a second his thoughts on the great cancer metaphor debate. To recap my feelings, I completely agree that defining the cancer experience in terms of battles or wars is hugely limiting, in part because they are ugly, in part because the corollary to that kind of thinking is that you win or lose battles. And if you unpack the idea of "winning" or "losing" at cancer, you can see how a lot of insidious baggage attaches itself to cancer patient. Who wants to be a "loser?" Who wants to not have the "will" to "fight?" But volition is so frail in the face of certain diseases. 

Anyway, here's Jennings on his preferred metaphor:
There are some catchphrases surrounding cancer and other serious diseases that I’ve come to bristle at. I don’t feel brave. I feel that I’m willing to talk about myself as an experiment of one. I don’t much like the phrase “battling cancer” — it’s a testosterone-suffused image about how you deal with disease. The metaphor I prefer is that it’s a dance with cancer. That’s much more subtle. My two sons are 19 and 22. I do want to set an example for them about how you can be a grown man and face a difficult situation. That’s important to me.
This is kind of a great thought in many ways, so I'm not going to make fun of it, but let me just say: Dancing doesn't do it for me. 

Although now I'm humming to myself, Sinatra-style: "I won't dance, don't ask me. I won't dance, madame with you..."

1 comment:

Elsa D. said...

I wish I knew you were there!
I also went to New York on the first for a consultation on the second on the 5th floor!
I love your blog and actually I only discovered it Friday night after I returned from New York! We were in the same waiting room probably! I´ll be back on the 23rd. I hope we see each other.
Good luck.