Please indulge me while I have a little rant. Have you seen the latest Macmillan television advert? The one where forlorn looking people are falling and kind looking nurses are picking them up. If not you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BGrskynlGs
I don’t know if it is just me, but I find this advert extremely patronising and presumptive. It is somehow portraying people with a cancer diagnosis as weak, which from my experience couldn’t be any further from reality. Some of the strongest, most vivacious people I know have cancer.
This brings me onto the language used by the media and charities when referring to cancer. It is always “fight”, “battle”, “warrior” or “brave”. These are words used to describe wars and soldiers and not in my opinion appropriate to describe a condition that will affect one in three of us at some point in our lives. When someone goes on to die from their cancer or as the media would put it “lose their battle” does this mean that they failed? In my mind this somehow lays blame with the patient and seems very unfair.
I have become much more aware of cancer in the media since my own diagnosis. In fact sometimes I feel completely surrounded and it can be rather suffocating. The most recent poster encouraging women to attend for cervical screening horrified me. If you haven’t seen it, the poster shows a cute little boy crying with the caption “my Mum missed her smear test, now I miss my Mum”. As far as I can see this is just emotional blackmail rather than helping women to make an informed choice about their own health.
The soap operas tend to portray cancer as an egocentric trip rather than a person with a health problem within their wider social context. This is illustrated recently with Brenda in Emmerdale who has just been diagnosed with a brain tumour. My first thoughts when I was diagnosed were not for myself but for my husband and my family, and how I was going to help them come to terms with what was happening to us as a whole; this is very different to how Brenda is dealing with her diagnosis by shutting her family out.
Of course cancer will always be in the media and so it should, but I think perhaps we as a society can think more carefully about how we portray it. How would I like it to be portrayed? Well, I think we need to see more normal people going about living their lives and coping with it because there is little alternative as a reflection of what is reality for most.
And when I die I will be turning in my grave if anyone says “she lost her brave fight”. I would like to be remembered as a fairly successful, fun-loving and ambitious individual, not as a loser…