Reality check: Incredibly positive people die from cancer

Let's drop the boxing metaphors about disease.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the fight/battle metaphors come tumbling out. The patient is going to “fight” the disease, beat it and all the while keep a positive attitude. But attitude won’t help if you step into the ring with Muhammad Ali.

“Challenging and even resisting such fighting language might help us to see more clearly that one person’s choice for hospice can be just as courageous as another’s choice to enroll in a clinical trial,” writes Sunita Puri, MD, in the Los Angeles Times.

Puri, the medical director of palliative medicine and supportive care at Keck Hospital and Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of USC, says that the metaphors used to describe our interaction with disease divides patients into winners and losers.

“But could it be freeing rather than disempowering to understand that the body—born of nature and subject to its laws—has its limits?” writes Puri. “That no matter how strong our determination to live, our bodies will eventually die?”