Heroine? Victim? WARRIOR!

Breast Cancer - Self Portrait - Photographer: Tracey Derrick

Continuing the thread of thought from Tracey’s seminar paperwe quoted yesterday, read about photo therapy/therapeutic photography  and  how Tracey made it work for her!

Spence uses the term ‘photo therapy’, which she explains is using photography to heal ourselves. It is about transformations and change and thus challenges the fixity of the photographic image and the search for an ideal self.

Spence and Martin use a kind of internal permission giving: permission to change, to re-view, to let go, to move on.

“Ways in which I have used the camera therefore include taking naturalistic photographs as things happen to me and around me; staging things especially for the camera; using old personal photographs and re-inventing what they mean. The whole technique depends upon expecting photographs to help us to ask questions, rather than supplying answers”.

This helped her with breast cancer and she says, “As a result I see myself neither as a ‘heroine’ or ‘victim’, but merely as a person in a struggle, changing and adjusting daily, and trying to keep a state of equilibrium which will allow me to function optimally, at the same time as I strive to regain health”. 4

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”


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Choosing our words

Java PrintingThe fight against cancer’, `battling the disease’, `conquering’, `defeating’, cancer `warriors’  – powerful words, fighting words. Words which many, namely the media, believe will give cancer patients and their loved ones strength, inspire us to carry on believing that together we can `beat’ the disease.

As if just behind us, Mel Gibson or the like is standing by, urging us to be `brave’, focused, `undefeatable’. Words designed to make us stand taller, to make us feel less alone.

The criticism of this language however, comes from within the cancer community. Countless cancer patients write that they don’t feel brave, and being told to be a warrior doesn’t make them any stronger. Being told to `fight’ when they can barely stand is actually, not helpful.

In fact Braveheart, could you stop shouting in my ear, wash that gunk off your face and cook my kids some supper? That would be make me feel a fraction better.

For what the battle brigade are missing is that cancer lives within us, and how do we battle ourselves? This is a part of our own body gone rogue. And while we’re treating it and hating it and going through immeasurable physical and emotional pain to rid ourselves of it, we still co-exist with it.

Let us be careful how we talk of these things. Let us not disempower anyone by making them feel less strong, less brave if their cancer gets worse. Let us not leave bereaved families feeling that their loved ones didn’t `fight’ hard enough.

Let us say instead that someone lived with cancer for however many years. That they underwent treatment for cancer, that they handled their illness with grace. Let us say they had cancer, and with dedicated medical attention, the support of their families and much discomfort, they have it no more.

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