I have written before about the power of language and its impact on illness and experience. This is a marvelous essay from the magazine CR by Gwen Darien and Musa Mayer about this. Here is a quote and then a link. I hope you have time to read it.
Weighing in on war and other cancer metaphors
By Gwen Darien and Musa Mayer
A diagnosis of cancer can heighten our sensitivity to language. We hang onto our doctor's words, which elate us or crush us. Our family and friends may not realize how their comments affect us. We listen for intimations of blame—blame for our unhealthy behavior, our failure to seek medical attention early enough, blame for not getting better, or for inconveniencing others. We look for ways that language is used to include and to exclude us. Are we part of a community of cancer survivors? When cancer is used as a metaphor for societal evil, does that feel insulting or hurtful?
When we talk about the language of cancer, a few themes emerge, yet our response to them is not universal. And, the meaning of language changes: Words that were lifesaving, or devastating, when we were first diagnosed may be almost neutral 10 years later; a person whose cancer is in remission has a very different viewpoint from one who is living with advanced disease.
In this essay, we've chosen to talk about metaphors—some of the most meaningful and value-laden messages in the language of cancer. We asked people who have been diagnosed with cancer like ourselves (Darien was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Mayer with breast cancer) how they feel about common metaphors applied to our disease. We wanted to know which metaphors and images respondents prefer, or if some people reject metaphoric language and euphemisms entirely, in favor of plain, direct descriptions of their cancer experiences.