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Breast Cancer Awareness Month is winding down and in Sunday’s column Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd asks “If survivors are “winners”, what should we call patients who die?”
Very good question.
Like me, Jacquielynn has a problem with some of the language used to describe people who are dealing with disease or some other serious life challenge.
Disease is an enemy to be vanquished; the afflicted are warriors; survivors are winners. Sick people are described as “courageous” or “brave,” as if, once stricken, they had a choice in the matter.
Believe me, anyone who has experienced life-threatening illness would tell you that, given the choice between bravely battling disease or watching safely from the sidelines, they’d choose the bench every time.
But this isn’t about courage. It’s about language, about the militaristic metaphors we employ when talking about sickness: fighter, winner, hero, loss, defeat.
Floyd admits that the media is responsible for encouraging that kind of language. People like to hear about heroes and fighters and winners. But we have to be so careful about what those terms say to those who chose not to take treatment for cancer.
Yes it takes strength and courage to undergo radical surgeries and intense chemo treatments, but it also takes strength and courage to decline when there is little or no hope for recovery. Each person faced with the challenge of cancer must make that decision for herself, or himself, but one should not be lauded over the other. As Floyd wrote in her column, “…if there are medals to be handed out in this “war,” let’s not award them for “winning.” Let’s honor patients for grace and good humor, or even for fear and uncertainly.
Let’s honor their humanity.”
Today’s Strong Woman I’m celebrating is Mrs. Jones, no surname mentioned. Her story was written in a Facebook post by Just Eat Real Food, and was getting passed around quite a bit. When I saw it, and shared it on my page, I knew I also had to inlude it here. What a wonderful message this lady has, and I do hope you take it to heart. I have and get up in the mornings now with a different mindset.
The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coiffed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
“Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”
And with a smile, she finished, “Remember the five simple rules to be happy: 1. Free your heart from hatred. 2. Free your mind from worries. 3. Live simply. 4. Give more. 5. Expect less
Thank you, Mrs. Jones, and I salute you.
Readers, have you met positive people like that who have influenced you? Please do share.
1 thought on “Monday Morning Musings”
What a lovely lady and what a lovely philosophy of life. My mom (age 96 and in assisted living)is like that, too. I admire her so much.