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battle terminology and cancer

Hey lovely people,

I hope you’re all doing okay.

This week, I’ve been reading a couple of articles about the language we use when we talk about cancer. It’s something I’ve been thinking about over the past few months, especially as I write for this blog.

The first article was written for the Huffington Post by Dr Mark Taubert, a palliative care doctor and the second was by Misha Gajewski for the Cancer Research blog.

Both articles highlighted the violent metaphors that we use when we talk about cancer. As Dr Taubert points out, ‘we don’t just ‘have’ cancer, we stand up to it, battle it’.

Don’t get me wrong – I have fallen into the habit of referring to cancer as something that needs to be fought. I tell others to stay strong and keep fighting and yet, I certainly never felt like I fought it courageously.

Bravery is a word that is associated with cancer a lot. I know that people have good intentions when they tell me that I’m brave but I am most definitely not; to me, bravery is something that you choose. Like if a house was on fire, would you run in and save the people inside? Cancer doesn’t give you a choice and because of that, I never see myself as inspirational or heroic – I’m the type of person who runs away from spiders!

It sounds strange but it took me a really long time to acknowledge that what I had was actually cancer; not because I was ever really in denial but because I couldn’t match what I was going through with the thing those heroic little kids on the telly had. When the Make a Wish Foundation gave me the opportunity to have a wish granted, I immediately thought ‘but I haven’t got a life-threatening illness.’

However, I do see others who have cancer or who have had it previously, as warriors – strange, eh? I think that I’ve partly been programmed to see cancer patients like this by the media but there is also a huge part of me that admires them for what they’ve been through. I respect and applaud them for managing to deal with all the horrible stuff that’s been thrown at them, the difficult conversations they’ve had with their families and friends, the lonely nights, the painful nights, the times when no one believes they’re actually feeling okay because they look awful. To me, they are fighters.

But what happens when there is nothing more that can be done and strong will is not enough?

Both Dr Taubert and Misha Gajewski state that the language of war and violence that we use may be motivational to patients at the beginning of a diagnosis. But as Dr Taubert explains, these metaphors become more difficult to use when the cancer has spread too far, with patients deeming themselves failures because they haven’t won the fight.

In my eyes, none of us are winners or losers. We are just lucky or unlucky. Of course, some of us could have cut down on the fags or kept out of the sun, but it’s all a game of chance. Those of us who got through the cancer part may now have long term health complications to deal with but we’re still incredibly lucky to be alive.

After reading these articles, I will think twice about the type of language I use when talking about cancer; nobody should be made to feel like a failure because they’re not going to survive it. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted my late father to think that about himself.

Someone once told me we are all brave in different ways – perhaps we should all believe that instead.

Allie x

This post was originally published here.

How Books Became My Escape

escape into books

When I was a kid, I used to read anything I could get my hands on, whether it was suitable for my age or not! I just loved reading and my mother would often find me tucked away in a corner with a book. My room had 3 bookcases and even that wasn’t enough to hold all of my books!

But when I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 14, I stopped reading. Just stopped completely.

Obviously, the shock of my diagnosis had a massive impact and I just didn’t feel like picking up a book at all. I listened to music and read magazines about celebrities, travel, and real life. Things that didn’t require much thought.

I really missed reading a good story, getting involved with the characters lives, and becoming engrossed within the plot. It was strange for me because books had always been my escape into another world and suddenly, there was only my life to concentrate on.


Thankfully, all of that changed about two thirds of the way through my treatment.

Someone, just by chance, had left a copy of The House at Riverton by Kate Morton in the hospital kitchen. I’d never read the book but I’d talked to a friend at school about it a few months earlier and she’d said how brilliant it was. The House at Riverton is quite a chunky book so I wasn’t sure whether I’d be up for reading it or not. Plus I wasn’t even sure who the copy belonged to!

My mother suggested that I take it back to my room and just give it a go. So, after trying and failing to locate the owner of the book, I told a nurse that I had it and if anyone was looking for it, to come and find me. Like a gangster.

As soon as I got back to my bed, I climbed in (with a bit of help!) and started reading.

I didn’t stop for a week! Seriously, if you’re looking for a book to read while you’ve got chemo brain, The House at Riverton is the one! 

Like all of Morton’s books, it’s set between two time periods and it tells the story of an aristocratic family in 1920’s England from the perspective of an ex-housemaid who is now in her 90s. A film crew want to make a movie about the tragic events that unfolded at the family home and Grace, the housemaid, holds the answers to many of their questions.

It’s a gripping book that you haunts you for a long time after you’ve put it down and it has many twists and turns that keep you enthralled.

While I was reading, I was in a country house in England and not in a hospital bed, hooked up to chemo. The book took me away from everything around me and I finally realized what I had been missing by not reading books.

After I finished The House at Riverton, I made a note of Kate Morton’s name and now I’ve read all of her novels! They are written in such a compelling way that I just devour them. Reading that first book – that I did return to the kitchen, by the way! – made me want to read all the other books that I’d pushed aside and from then on, I went back to doing what I love – reading.

For an hour a day, I wasn’t a kid with cancer stuck in a hospital bed. I was a ballerina in London, I was getting off the train at Hogwarts, I was soaring above Neverland.

I love to write and create my own worlds but books are definitely the next best escape.


Welcome Allie!

Lacuna Loft is excited to continue introducing more young adult voices! These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft. Before everyone starts really getting into the nitty-gritty of all they have to say, we wanted to introduce them a bit. Without further ado, here is Allie!

Hello! I’m Allie, a freelance writer from Wales, UK.

A month before my 15th birthday, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a rare form of bone cancer. I was given nine months of chemotherapy and had major surgery to replace the affected bone with a titanium joint. After overcoming cancer and learning to walk again, I continued my studies and last year, I graduated with a Masters degree in Creative Writing!

I blog about pretty much everything on my lifestyle blog and I’ve also set up a cancer advice website called Those Three Words to help others during their treatment and afterward. Having cancer has taught me to appreciate every little moment in life and I love to spend time with the people who mean the most to me. You can usually find me writing, reading, or eating lots of cake.

Twitter: @AllieMorgan24