Macmillan Cancer Support has today drawn attention to the negative impact of ‘fighting talk’ on people living with cancer.
The charity says the findings of its latest survey show that people find it more difficult to talk honestly about their experiences because of the pressure they feel to be positive. One in four people said that they feel guilty if they don’t stay positive about their disease. The problem is that this can get in the way of them having conversations with relatives and health professionals about their end-of-life preferences.
Macmillan’s survey and report is long overdue . For as long as I can remember, patients and families – coping with all manner of diseases and conditions not just cancer – have expressed disquiet about the language – and let’s be frank it’s often the language of war – ‘fight,’ ‘battle,’ etc. etc. – that is used and how it makes them feel and behave. I suspect it also causes friends and family to say and do things which feel equally unauthentic.
Similarly society has become dominated by messages about health care and medical research that continue to emphasise ‘cure’ over ‘care.’ Quantity versus quality of life is still the premium product if we are to believe the advertisers and fundraisers. If you don’t believe me you may wish to check out these charity slogans I collected some time ago.
While I understand the imperatives behind this, the growing gap between people’s lived experience and the experience they are being told they should have is a cause for concern. Perhaps it is what motivated the graffiti artist in Bromley who I noticed a few months ago had angrily scrawled ‘It’s all lies’ across just such a slogan on a billboard by a very well-known charity.
Let’s hope today’s report causes charities, health organisations, research funders and others to pause for a moment and think carefully about the language they are using in their fundraising and advertising.
A bit of ‘care’ would not go amiss.