Being Thankful for Cancer: A Huffington Post article

This Huffington Post article caught my eye:

Dear Cancer, This Is How You’ve Made Me Thankful.

Zoe Lintzers reflects on how she has observed the experiences of loved ones with cancer, and how cancer has helped her to better appreciate the simple pleasures of life: She writes perceptively about these experiences and her own realizations, presenting a convincing argument for what others can learn from disease and human suffering. Is illness something we should be thankful for? Despite the revelations that it may catalyze, does it demand our gratitude?

It was sometimes hard for me to look beyond some of her diction choices, though. She mentions the aunts she lost to cancer. Then she proceeds to tell of how  “[t]here are the brave others in my family who have been diagnosed in the past six years and are in remission, having triumphed over a disease that makes our eyes widen and our hearts crumble upon hearing that initial diagnosis. But they’ve prevailed and, to me, are the strongest people I know.”

But what does this mean for those whose lives were lost to cancer? Were they not brave? Just because they were unable to successfully triumph over their disease, does that imply something about their strength?

I’m sure that these were not intentional questions that Lintzers meant to imply. But sometimes I feel that this can be the danger of using what Arthur Frank called “the triumph narrative.” It’s interesting to me how prevalent this language is when it comes to communicating illness experiences. Especially with cancer, a disease in which war is literally waged against one’s body. But there needs to be an increased awareness of the latent effects of the triumph narrative.

Lintzers does, however, successfully portray her personal experiences with cancer as both a painful experience but also an enlightening one: “Cancer made me see that this is what it — life — is all about.”

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

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