It has long been said that tough illnesses such as cancer are seen as a battle meant to be fought, but maybe that isn’t the best way to view such a disease? Dhruv Khullar wrote an essay that shows the pros and cons to using military metaphor when treating patients with serious illnesses. one could argue that describing cancer as a “fight” is the way its always been, this trend began way back in the 17th century.
Personally, I don’t know how to feel about this debate. I believe the patient should be the only party involved in choosing how to reference their disease, because well, it is their disease after all. Khullar stated that “viewing cancer as a fight can lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms and encourage emotional suppression”. Although only true for some patients, depression and anxiety can increase by supressing their emotion to look strong for friends and family as to not show that they are weak, which in turn makes their condition worse. Despite this fact, we still do it, it feels natural. It makes sense since “there is an enemy (the cancer), a commander (the physician), a combatent (the patient), allies (the healthcare team) and formidable weaponry (including chemical, biological,and nuclear weaponds)”. Using this reasoning, its hard to see a reason to not use military metaphor, but ultimately it can do more harm than good, especially since doctors often start off treatments using these metaphors. It is important to note that “patients may prefer not to view illnesses as a battle or conflict. Indeed it seems strange that the language of healing remains so interwoven with the language of warfare…”, because ultimately, it is solely up to the patient how they choose to view their disease, and if they feel as if using military metaphor gives them the push to fight through, then so be it.
James Geary also touched upon the impact metaphor could have on someone in his TED talk, stating that “Metaphor creates a kind of conceptual synesthesia, in which we understand one concept in the context of another”. This shows that in some ways, using military metaphor when discussing treatments with cancer patients could possibly further their understanding of the issue and possibly increase morale. Erard also elaborated on metaphorical thinking, to which he says that metaphors are “meant to make someone realise that theyve only been looking at one side of a thing”. Meaning that if a patient views the disease as it is, a disease they have, then they may not gain the motivation to get through it. If they were to view the disease as a fight they can win, it could make them more confident in their ability to survive.
It seems as if the overall consensus between many different metaphorical writers that the true meaning behind each metaphor lies within the person interpreting it.To elaborate, if the patient chooses to view their disease as a war they can win if they fight hard enough, or just as a disease, it is fully up to them and shouldn’t be shoved upon them by doctors or family members from the start.