Cancer Treatment: Is it Really a Fight?

10/04/2011 08:14 am ET | Updated Dec 03, 2011

Now that I'm fully immersed in treatment, it's time to go out on a limb and broach the topic that has been on my mind since the time of diagnosis, but that I haven't brought up because it's, well, it's anti-establishment -- in a BIG way.

Here goes: I have never seen my journey with FBC (F-bomb Breast Cancer) as a "fight." There. I said it.

I've mentioned this to a few people who responded either by gasping or by boo-hooing my belief, assuming that my outrageous notion is a by-product of chemotherapy or pain meds or just the general delirium that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

However, I still fervently believe that I have never been engaged in a fight with breast cancer. Has this been awful? Yes. Has this been a struggle? Yes, of course. Has this been a long haul? Absolutely.

But, I have still never engaged in a "fight."

Omnipresent in our culture are cancer "fighting" messages, like "cancer-fighting strategies" and "cancer-fighting foods" and "cancer-fighting treatments." People told me to "fight" or "keep fighting" or "fight the good fight" as if I were Muhammed Ali.

Even though it always made/makes me cringe, I fully acknowledge that these "fighting" wishes come from very well-meaning people, intending to encourage me and give me strength throughout the journey.

Frankly, the thought of "fighting" makes my stomach turn. Quite simply: I'm not a fighter.
Now, that's certainly not to say that I'm passive. Far, far from it. In fact, the image of myself as passive makes me laugh out loud. I'm assertive. Strong. Determined. Forthright. I stand up to bullying and don't take S**T from anyone.

I know quite a few people who are "fighters." They love to pick a fight and then go full throttle. Yelling. Screaming. Smoke coming out of their ears. Fighters. You look at them and it seems as if they are seething, just waiting for the next battle. Always one word away. I have never in my life understood how someone could live this way.

If I haven't thrown you over the edge and you are still reading, please allow me to clarify that fighting is very different from the emotion of anger. Anger is, I believe, a very healthy emotion. When I'm really ticked about something (which does happen on occasion), I acknowledge it, welcome it, thank it and then politely ask it to leave. Anger isn't something that I'm fond of holding for long periods of time.

So, if I'm not "fighting," WTF have I been doing during these grueling months?

I've been harnessing energy. I've been finding Silver Linings and thinking positively. I've been laughing whenever possible (mostly at myself). I've been resting. I've been allowing the treatments to eradicate cancer from my body. I've been learning. I've been growing. I've been trying things that I've never done before (e.g., giving myself IV fluids, getting fitted for a custom bustier bolus, writing).

Fighting, to me, has a tremendously pejorative connotation.

Why add insult (fighting) to injury (cancer)?

My philosophy is to focus on the positive and thereby render the negative inconsequential.
And another thing: In all of my years as a cardiac nurse, never once did we (nurses, doctors, etc.) tell patients with cardiovascular disease to "fight."

Why, I wonder, are people with cancer the only patients who are told to "fight"? I've never understood this.

As a hospice nurse who has cared for many cancer patients at the end of their life, I wondered whether were they somehow to blame because they "lost the fight"? It almost seemed punitive to suggest that they "lost." As if they had something to do with it. It was never suggested that patients with vascular disease, for example, "lost" some kind of "battle."

This is certainly no right or wrong here. Everyone chooses how they will handle their own circumstances and disease process. My fundamental hope is that no matter which road is chosen that you are able to find Silver Linings (inside the ring or out).

The most important thing in illness is never to lose heart.
-- Nikolai Lenin

To read more about Hollye's holistic and humorous journey over, around, above and below breast cancer, please visit her blog, Brookside Buzz ( You may email her at or follow her on Twitter @hollyejacobs.