Dear Cancer…

I kind of love this:

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One of the most intriguing things about cancer is that we as a society respond differently to this illness than to others. We have personified cancer, transforming this disease into a being. 

So here’s my question: why? What about cancer has made it particularly tempting to personify, and what are the effects of this personification?

I believe that the question why cancer? is pretty loaded, so I’ll be unpacking that in some upcoming posts. For now, I’d like to think more about the effects of personification.

Understanding cancer as a being transforms the abstract into something tangible. This familiarity deflates cancer to our plane, simultaneously empowering us in the face of illness. We’ve accepted this as a part of our coping mechanism, promoting organizations that invert the power dynamics of cancer such as  Cancer Fears Me

Writing letters to cancer has a similar function for patients, as evidenced by this fascinating fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. As a strong proponent of writing as a therapeutic process in the face of illness, I think that letter-writing can be incredibly empowering. It’s fascinating to see how people address cancer: some violently and aggressively command cancer to follow their mandates, while others respond more passively to its malicious nature and tempestuous effects.

If you were to write a letter to cancer (which you should do here), what would you say? How would you say it? And why?

1 Comment

Filed under Chronicling Childhood Cancer: Illuminating the Illness Experience through Narrative, Literary Narratives

One response to “Dear Cancer…

  1. This is a really interesting post…and so true! Cancer is definitely personified in ways I don’t think anyone fully appreciates…and it instills a fear so unlike anything else in the world. Definitely a thought provoking post–something to keep in mind as we go through our own journeys to become pediatric oncologists :)


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