Cancer: Time to weed out war language

Jan 31, 2019 | Blog Articles

It’s time to weed out the language of war when it comes to cancer. February 4 is World Cancer Day and an opportunity to raise the campaign to let go of negative language around cancer to create pathways towards healing and inner peace.

A quick search on the web reveals many sites dedicated to helping people ‘fight’, ‘conquer’ cancer or do battle with the disease.

There are foods that ‘battle cancer’; there are ‘battle plans’; plenty of ‘fight against cancer’ quotes and many that say people ‘lost their battle with cancer’.

Why impose the metaphors of war at a time when people are likely feeling frightened, vulnerable, distressed and confused?

Cancer is often described as ‘aggressive’, ‘nasty’, ‘sinister’, a ‘silent killer’ and/or we are ‘cancer victims’.

It’s natural for people to feel fearful when first diagnosed with the ‘Big C’. Suddenly the world as we know it stops, and life is never the same again.


While it’s true that there are:

  • treatments to be endured
  • a likely change in our body image to be accommodated
  • painful conversations to be had with family, with friends
  • concerns about the impact cancer will have on our finances or our ability to earn
  • a new ‘cancer language’ to be learnt
  • perhaps concerns about our children, our life, our death and its impact for us and on those we love

– all these things are pressing but the metaphor of war is an unnecessary burden.

The last thing people need when living with the challenges of cancer is to feel they’re in a battle. It implies that if they fight hard enough, long enough, tenaciously enough, they might win this inner war.


What people really need is rest, support, education, love and compassion for themselves, and from those around them. Along with appropriate medical care or treatment, these are the ingredients for wellbeing and the regaining of health.

All of the following are shown to be valuable for the person with cancer and yet, none of these activities pertain to war:

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • A nutritious diet
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Reduced sugar/alcohol
  • Healthy emotional expression and
  • Our ability to make positive meaning from our experience


Quest for Life’s holistic recovery-oriented programs have the potential to change people’s lives in profoundly positive ways. Long-term research on the impact of Quest programs finds that over 90% of participants improve their quality of life and feel more in control of, and able to make changes to, their life.

Learn about ways to make positive changes in your life and create an environment for profound healing through our Quest for Life intensive 5-day residential program.

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