The battle metaphors around cancer are probably beside the point

My friend Steve Buttry couldn’t sleep the other night and wrote a dynamite post about the battle metaphors surrounding cancer.

Steve quoted Stuart Scott’s now famous ESPY speech when he said, “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”

Steve had made a very similar point on Dec. 12 when he disclosed his cancer diagnosis. He contended he won the battle against cancer because he survived his first cancer bout for 15 years and had lived a fun, rewarding, fruitful life.

Steve also wrote this : I did recall when I was writing in November that Jean McGuire’s obituary last June said: “In her last days she promised to haunt her husband if he included in her obituary that she had ‘lost a courageous battle with cancer.’ She despised such metaphors. She faced death as she faced the challenges of raising a Down syndrome child, with grace and class and humor.”

My wife Jean did hate the battle metaphors around cancer. She often said, “this is a fight I didn’t pick.” She personally thought it was poppycock to think that her attitude could change any outcomes and she was not interested in chasing around the country for cures. She would have participated in clinical trials but she was told she was a bad candidate. She trusted her doctors completely and firmly believed that courage was accepting “what happens will happen.”

Clearly, that attitude is too passive for many people. I have smart, courageous friends who have entered countless trials and fought like hell until the last dog was hung. Jean looked on treatment only as a vehicle to a better quality of life. If it didn’t help her do the fun things she wanted to do,  or “fix” her, she wasn’t interested.

And yet, I think that’s where Jean’s attitude intersects with that of Scott and Buttry. All three of them see and saw that the end game is not death. We all will arrive at that end-game. For all three of them the real end game was the quality of life one enjoys and demonstrates when they are still up and taking nourishment.

Jean was a model for many with her incisive humor all during her treatment and right to the end. Stuart Scott inspired with words and actions. Steve Buttry makes us all wiser with his transparent musings.

It is indeed all about the living and not about the death.

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