23 comments on “Fight or Accept?

  1. I’m over toward the accepter side of things. I don’t use terms like “fighting cancer”, but I also don’t say I “suffer from cancer”. I say and think of it as “living with cancer”. I’ve thought and written about it quite a bit, and this fits best with my character in general.

    Lately I’ve been thinking that some of this might have to do with the time since diagnosis and the stage of the disease. What do you think?

    • I think folks are more likely to move towards accepting cancer the closer they feel they are to death and the more certain it becomes that cancer will cause their death. That said, we each have our own bias and it wouldn’t surprise me if many, maybe most, fighters consider it a battle to the end.

        • Most of the world holds the warrior in high esteem. Acceptance is often confused with cowardice in the same vein.

          If my wife had stage IV cancer and was near death, I would far prefer that she forgo a final round of chemo to extend her life. I would much rather my wife spend her last time being under less painkillers, more available to talk and maybe even laugh, than to have a few more months with her balled up in pain, vomiting and under heavy sedation. After her death I would be thankful and proud for her choice of this path.

  2. No matter the stage or the outcome, whether we die from complications of cancer or from something else, whether we actively fight, or accept, if we put ourselves in a mind to live a good life, are we not kicking cancer’s ass? No one gets out alive, but I will leave a darned good looking corpse.

    • LOL! Good for you! This sounds like an accepter’s view to me. Accept the inevitability of death and redefine kicking cancer’s ass from “killing it” into “living a good life.”

      • Perhaps it is because I am in remission that I feel I still can fight the good fight. But hell, we are all going to die. You can’t let the cancer beat your soul, or beat down who you are. Show it YOU are in charge…live your life like it is the last minute. Hell, I might have cancer, but it doesn’t have me. I have me.

        Thirteen years ago, I watched my sister die of ovarian cancer. Right up until her last day on this earth, she put being a mother, daughter, wife, sister, aunt, a kickass all around fantastic person ahead of being a ‘cancer patient’. After she died, prople said to me that they were sorry she lost her battle. My reply has always been this: my sister was not the loser. Cancer was. She rode her days like she had everything to live for. Cancer did not beat her, they mearly came to a decision on who was going to get the body.

  3. I am somewhere in the middle. I’m stage 2 and I accept that I have cancer and what I need to do to “fight” it. I also realize that even though I may be technically cancer free at the moment, that may not be the case 2 or 5 years down the road. I’m not completely comfortable with words like warrior, battles, survivor because what does that say if I do end up ultimately dying from cancer? That I didn’t fight hard enough?

    • Ahhh. There’s the rub for the fighter. The possibility that at the end they face defeat. I hope that they are at least able to say they fought the best fight they could, are dying an honorable warrior’s death, and take pride in that.

  4. It is a conflicting approach. Everyone who reads my blog knows I’m fighting the good fight, but like ms. Hopeful above, the survivor and battle talk is difficult, even though I use the terms. Can’t we be both? Fight the fight while accepting the realities. At stage four, I know I will have to live with cancer, but I’m swimming through the struggles to try and sustain a fulfilling life, while continuing the healing process. Unrealistic? Maybe….but I can only look at the positive outcome and remain calm while “fighting this battle”. after all, it is a battle….we have something invading the precious territory that is our body, traditionally fighting for our home is the way we humans survive, not with retreating.

    • I do think we can be both in the sense that we can switch back and forth. It sounds as if you are in transition from being a fighter to an accepter. Accepting does not necessarily mean forgoing treatments. I believe that for the most part the treatment plans for a fighter and an accepter are the same, at least up until late stage IV (obviously assuming they are essentially the same person with the same disease).

      A major difference is how they talk and think about their disease. The fighter is in a battle, their focus is on killing cancer in the engagements (treatments) and using the time between engagements to marshal their resources to do still better in the next engagement. Part of that time is spent enjoying some good times hopefully and using it to further motivate themselves. When they finally defeat cancer, they’ll put their full energy back into enjoying life or fighting whatever the next battle is. The fighter is going to kill cancer or die trying. When I think of a fighter, I think of adrenalin pumping through their system before the battle.

      The accepter juggles several balls. They want to maximize their life span, minimize cancer’s impact on their life, and maximize their quality of life. The accepter sees killing their cancer as a means to achieve desired ends. Killing their cancer is not the primary goal. It is a highly prized achievement, but they recognize it may not be achievable. The accepter is going to enjoy life as long as they can, as much as they can. When I think of an accepter, I think of calmness enveloping them before an event.

      Before I read the quote in this post, I thought there was no medical difference between the approaches – that they were more a reflection of personality. Dr. Weil’s suggestion that the accepter may heal better struck me and I wanted to share it. I haven’t read the book. I probably won’t because it’s not based on hard scientific data. Hopefully someone will do some more serious studies of it.

  5. Very interesting thought and great food for thought. I’ve also never been comfortable with the warrior terminology that many people put around cancer. I am not a warrior, never have been, never will be. What I do is to live the life I have as best I can with what I have. Part of me is willing to fight but my heart isn’t really into to that. I will seek all the reasonable treatments but there will come a time when I’ll have to accept whatever fate has been dealt me.

    But while I have life, breath and strength – I’ve got things to do and life to live.

    Thanks for this post – really a good one.

  6. Pingback: Just Reading Stuff « Andrew's View of the Week

  7. This is such an interesting topic. I think that some of this “You will beat this thing” terminology stems from the rallying around some of the Susan Komen, livestrong, etc that gets people in large groups and gets them all revved up for fundraising etc. My problem with that is that people seem to adopt “catch phrases” and try to apply them to their own lives when in fact these illnesses and how we cope with them are highly personal experiences. For example, the majority of my patients seem to have many mixed feelings and mixed approaches – and that is okay. There always seems to be a push to feel strongly one way or to adopt one single approach, and truly I don’t think that’s the best approach for everybody. I would agree with what has been mentioned above…if “fighting” means doing every little thing necessary and accepting every treatment in order to beat the cancer (which means what, exactly? beating cancer = cure? or does it = finding a way to live life in spite of it?), then succumbing to it definitely means “losing.” Clearly that’s not accurate. My Aunt subscribed to this and accepted every single terrible treatment, far beyond what she was able to tolerate, and until her last day, she was in agony and constantly lamenting that “she was not strong enough.” I am still so angry about that.

    • Well put!

      Few are willing to see or acknowledge the dark side of cancer fundraising or the proliferation of colorful ribbons. Some very important ethical and moral issues get glossed over. Maybe I’ll take that up in a future post – when I want to reduce the number of my followers. 😉

      It’s easy to understand how you could still be angry about your Aunt. It seems a totally appropriate feeling. Somehow she bought into the version of the fighter that means you have to survive. That’s preposterous. The “true” soldier, just like the “true” athlete, takes pride in doing the best they possibly can, even if that best doesn’t defeat cancer or win a gold metal.

      It’s so sad when someone does their absolute best and isn’t able to take pride in that. I suspect depression was a key factor in this. I know when I decided to end my radiation treatments I was tortured by the feeling I let my wife and myself down. But I knew the treatment was worse than the disease at that point – I had to quit. What I didn’t realize is how much depression the treatments caused, because of all the pain they produced. Now, month’s later, I’m finally over that depression. I thank God that I had the strength to stop. With that depression gone I also realize what I did was the exact opposite of letting my wife and myself down.

      Maybe your Aunt was never pain free long enough for the depression to lift, for her to see all that she had accomplished and feel good about it and herself.

  8. I believe the kind of anecdotal evidence presented for things like “faith healing” should be taken more seriously than it is. For instance, I have had very positive experiences with homeopathic medicine. Experiences that are too definitive to ignore. Yet there are people who dismiss it out of hand because its mechanisms can not be explained according to what we currently know. Maybe someday we will understand how it works, but to me the explanation does not matter because it does me good whether I understand it or not. That being said, I always apply the Bruce Lee rule, which is take what works for you and leave the rest. There is no need to embrace the dogma surrounding any controversial treatment. I know statistics are important to you, but acknowledging the potential effectiveness of something you can’t quantify does not make you a traitor to your numbers. Dr. Weil says “this mental shift MAY be the master key that unlocks healing”. He’s not sure. You don’t have to be either. Try it on if you want. See if it helps. I hope whatever you decide works for you!

    • I’m actually quite open to alternative therapy – for a statistical type I guess. There are too many things we simply don’t understand to dismiss them out of hand. Or we haven’t studied in any rigorous statistically quantifiable way to make any kind of statement at all.

      I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Dr. Weil is on to something. It “feels” right to me. That’s the main reason I mentioned it. I sure hope he’s right, because it is the path I’ve chosen.

      I’m also not as hung up on the need for traditionally defined efficacy – I’m all over placebo effect. I do believe the power of the mind can sometimes be at least as strong as many chemicals. There’s nothing I’d like better than to take sugar water, get a huge placebo effect, and be cured of cancer. I must admit, though, that my efforts to accomplish this with Coke have so far failed.

  9. LOL! I’m glad you’ve decided on something that feels right, even if it’s only for now. Everything I’ve read in your blog shows that you are very flexible. I think that’s key given the roller coaster you’re on. I continue to hope you get everything you want!

  10. Have you noticed any differences in age ranges for the “fighters” vs. “acceptors”? Being somewhat young with cancer I tend to read other blogs by young people with cancer and all seem to be fighters. We want to put cancer behind us and live the rest of our lives out. Accepting seems more like agreeing that it will always be there. I think I’m on the fence. I’m more of the fighter mentality, but as it is a genetic disorder driving my cancer which will predispose me for the rest of my life, I also know there is a good chance that even when I beat my current cancer it will, in all likelihood, come back and may kill me in the end (although I hope that’s a long long way out). : )

    • I don’t have hard data, but I think the younger one is plus the lower one’s stage, the more likely they are to be a fighter. I think part of this is cultural, at least in America. It seems to me that for many Americans, doing anything other than fighting feels like giving up. This is especially true the younger someone is.

      It’s as if the -only- way dealing with cancer can be thought of is as a battle. This limits us to the options of killing the opponent, being killed ourself, retreating, or surrendering. What I think of as acceptance is not on this continuum.

      In judo, one does not fight one’s opponent traditionally. One attempts to use the opponent’s weight, direction of movement, inertia, etc. to subdue the opponent. Staying calm and moving gracefully is required. Killing the opponent is not the goal. The goal is for one to go back to living one’s live at peace. (Not unlike remission.)

      At any rate, this post has generated far more comments than I ever expected. It’s become crystal clear that I failed to make several points. The comments have also made me think about this a lot more. I have a much better understanding of the difference now. Stay tuned for a massive revision of this post.

  11. Just for myself, I think there is a middle ground here. I think before one can truly “fight” prostate cancer, or any cancer for that matter, one must “accept” the disease. Acceptance brings about a demeanor that is in tune with focused attention to performing each and every task necessary to one’s treatment without reservation or anticipation. A clear mind, one that accepts the very worst possible outcome is a prepared mind, one that can fight without reservation. So rather than make acceptance contrary to fighting, I suggest that acceptance is the road to pushing forward, to fight the good fight.

    • Regrettably my post inadvertently implied the two approaches cannot coexist. I think most people adopt one or the other side from time to time, but I do think folks tend to prefer one side over the other on balance.

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