Wow, great post, great discussion. I love anything that causes thought provoking discussion.
I am fascinated by the knee-jerk rejection of the word victim. Based on the definition in the beginning of this post, being a victim is nothing to be ashamed of, really. It is not like I actively “asked for it”; I did not sit around, cigarette dangling out of my mouth, beer in one hand, fatty chicken leg in the other going “come and get me cancer!” I did not cause my cancer. And I think there is something to be explored when you say “I wonder if our visceral anger when hearing ‘cancer victim’ isn’t about our not having completely, deeply shaken the notion of blaming the cancer victim.” The message that one can prevent cancer by eating right, exercising, abstaining from smoke an alcohol is ubiquitous and the way I interpret it, I am being blamed for getting cancer. I see many comments about empowering oneself and choosing to do all these right things, and I wonder if that is about helping the patient feel back in control. I pose this question: if we desire to empower ourselves and exert control by doing all these right things, and reject the notion of victimhood, then if cancer returns, are we willing to accept blame?
The word victim seems to be another troubling—for me—piece of the confusing language of cancer. I do not generally call myself a victim, but after this post I might. If I remember correctly, rejection of the word started when breast cancer activism began borrowing from AIDS activism, as patients began to identify as activists, and then blew up when the Komen/Livestrong warrior language (wish I could remember the places I read this, so I could site it). I have so much trepidation regarding these words: awareness, survivor, victim, warrior, acceptance, battle, fight, hope. I am coming to terms with identifying as survivor but I may never be comfortable with the warrior talk. I did not battle cancer; I made logical, informed decisions to go to a doctor, learn my options, and engage in treatment. It wasn’t as dramatic as gearing up for a firefight in Iraq or something, but I do not consider myself passive either; that would’ve been choosing to not get treated and let cancer kill me. To me hope is the most passive word in the bunch, but that is the one slathered all over breast cancer awareness ads, and usually embraced in the community. I don’t like it. Sounds like we are just supposed to wait like good little patients, and hope someone finds a cure. Bleh, no thanks.
It is odd to me that there is discussion about victim mentality; if anything, the example you presented seems to indicate the opposite. Sounds like specifically in this instance there was almost peer pressure to reject victimhood and so forth. I do not think it is a symptom of victimhood mentality, or a failure to move forward by recognizing that cancer had a major impact on my life. Obviously it did, or I would not be blogging about it, or reading other blogs and commenting on them.
vic·tim [vik-tim] noun
1. a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency: a victim of an automobile accident.
2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion.
This one is going to rankle some feathers, and I look forward to a brisk dialogue in the comments section!
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