The Power of a Word

The Power of a Word

Cancer.

It is a foreboding word. When spoken aloud, the word cancer can elicit an array of powerful emotions – shock, dread, fear, isolation, loneliness, terror, panic, anger, sadness, anguish…

Cancer.

I remember vividly, the multitude of overwhelming emotions I felt when I knew the radiologist found cancer in my breast. I remember the icy sensation that seeped through my body – emotions of panic, fear, dread, shock, and anguish. Pure anguish. It was the anguish that intensified as the reality of the situation sunk deep within.

Cancer.

It robs the living. From those who are fighting to survive, to those who are left behind to grieve their loss. It takes from us. Our lives are permanently altered to an existence that is neither familiar nor freeing. And though we push forward, learning to share space with it, it weighs heavy on our hearts and in our minds.

Cancer.

The word still frightens me. Even after two diagnosis and [almost] 7 years post-surgery/treatment. It frightens me because it is not just a word, it is a meaning – a sense of finality. A darkness that is both unfamiliar and intimidating. The intimacy of life as we know it now lost.

Cancer.

But, what if we change the meaning that surrounds this word? What if, instead, we give power to our own chosen word(s) to describe, in our own way, the diagnosis and/or journey? It may not change the emotions we are feeling, but perhaps it will alter our perception. Perhaps, by choosing language that is associated with strength, love, compassion, and courage we can change how we physically and emotionally respond.

This is what I did. My child was not quite two years old when I was diagnosed with cancer. He was too young to be told – in scientific terms – what I was diagnosed with, and its immediate impact on our lives. He simply would not understand; and I did not wish to burden him with the fears associated with the disease. So instead, I explained to him that ‘Mommy’s breast was sick, it had to be removed so that mommy wouldn’t get sick.‘ This explanation worked for him, and surprisingly, it worked for me too. It simplified the magnitude of the diagnosis, and it allowed me time and space to actually process the array of emotions I was overcome with, so that I could then focus on the journey set before me.

I know that, no matter the vocabulary chosen to describe the disease, it does not take away from the seriousness of the diagnosis; and it may not change how we feel or what we feel. Regardless, we will feel. We will progress through a multitude of emotions – shock, fear, isolation, panic, anger, sadness. However, by stripping the word cancer of its power, you might – just might – give that power back to yourself. And by doing so, you might allow yourself the necessary space to process each emotion on their own and within your own time.

Perhaps these thoughts I am sharing are mere rambles. Perhaps these thoughts I am sharing will connect with you. Whatever the decisions, feelings, or words you use, only you can give power to them, and only you can decide what shares space with you.

The Power of a Word. Published by Crystal Joy Hall

Featured Image by Sven Huls

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