Monday, September 14, 2015

Malignant Metaphor by Alanna Mitchell

In CancerLand we talk a lot about fear. And the fear of pain, nausea, chemo, surgery, exhaustion and the one million accompanying losses which are legitimate to a cancer diagnosis or to being a cancer caregiver.

But there is another kind of cancer fear that is widely felt though less spoken about. Alanna Mitchell names that fear and dissects it powerfully in her new book, Malignant Metaphor,
published this week by ECW Press in Toronto.

The subtitle of her book is, “confronting cancer myths”. And there are many. Mitchell was compelled to write about this after two family members had serious cancer diagnoses. She learned, as most readers here know, about the confusion and inconsistency and the struggle to get straight answers. But Mitchell also took on the surrounding trauma and stigma.

Malignant Metaphor covers the implied blame that accrues to cancer patients. The sense that cancer happens because someone didn’t do something right: you didn’t eat right, exercise right, express emotions right. She calls cancer myology an “irreconcilable trifecta of blame and anxiety.” 

She looks at the cultural beliefs that are now mostly unconscious but which, nevertheless, control and shape our thinking: “For as long as humans have written words, we have portrayed disease as an indictment of character, proof of a secret sin, or as punishment by an unseen but powerful force.”

This is a book for cancer caregivers and family, and especially for professional caregivers and students. Examining these myths and deep beliefs will help all of us to change the system of care in CancerLand.

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