The warrior mentality

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will know that I am a Democrat…a very liberal, reasonable (IMO!) Democrat, at that. But when it comes to cancer, to a cancer diagnosis, it doesn’t matter what I believe, what you believe, what anyone believes.
I was saddened to learn about Senator John McCain’s recent brain cancer diagnosis. As I mentioned, political views don’t matter, here.
I wouldn’t have written about it, though (like I didn’t mention Senator Ted Kennedy years ago, for instance), except that this morning I read a very interesting article that isn’t just about Sen. John McCain, but also about the words we use to describe cancer and cancer patients:
As a pacifist, I’ve always had trouble with the “warrior mentality,” which lives in expressions such as “cancer warrior,” “fighting a battle against cancer” and so on. They are very common in online myeloma forums and groups, so common that I might even have used the word “battle” to describe my own journey with myeloma, but I have never considered myself any type of “warrior.”
Excerpt from the article: “For me, having lost my husband, it’s frustrating to hear publicly people saying to John McCain, ‘If anybody can beat this you can — you’re so tough. Not that it’s intentionally hurtful, but it does leave those of us who’ve lost a loved one thinking, ‘Was my loved one not tough enough? Did he not fight hard enough?’
What do you think? Has the warrior terminology helped you get through some tough times? Or does it bother you?
By the way, I don’t even care for the term “cancer survivor.” Again, what do you think? I’d be super interested to get some feedback…
I also highly recommended this article to those whose loved ones/friends have just been diagnosed with cancer…You’ll find some good tips here…and, at the very least, quite a bit of food for thought…


  1. I came across the same article yesterday and quite agree with the perspective and your post, Margaret. For those who do not have a battle mentality, the idea of winners and losers in an all out battle for life can leave a sense of feeling defeated from the beginning. I think it can be detrimental to some who may have a more intellectual approach to an adversarial situation. It does not leave the mind open to a middle ground. In a health crisis, a sustainable middle ground may be the best approach. A scorched earth approach is no guarantee of winning. My mother, who does not have a fighter mentality, went through three different Cancer scenarios within the past 25 years. She focused on taking good care of herself while continuing to engage with others. She just started her 91st year of her life this month.

  2. Hello Margaret

    What an interesting question. I don’t consider myself to be a warrior, although some might describe me as such.

    With combatting my myeloma it is more a question of persisting and trying to find an answer or a solution, where possible. There is a lot available we don’t know about and I would search and try to find answers – something that is much easier now with online forums, internet access etc. In the old days it was more difficult.

    For me it is the difference of accepting your illness but get on with it as good as you can, or do you get up in the morning and think that you are ill and because of that you don’t really do anything and you do feel ill..

    But I have the same attitude in my work and life generally so probably that’s why it comes easy.

    Since being diagnosed I also still enjoy every day although it was my last… these days you never know.


  3. With my MM smoldering with no official therapy except for 8 gr of dr best curcumin with bioperine I feel like gambler … gambling on curcumin for a long life …

  4. Food for thought? Absolutely.

    I had to look up the definition of warrior to determine where I stood. A warrior is someone engaged in battle, or has previous battle experience. I didn’t see a prognosis of a successful outcome other than if he survived previous battle he is still on his feet.

    I don’t get offended by others offering support. But I am now questioning myself when I say to others, “you can do it”, or “you’ve got this” and do I really need to add, “but it will be tough”.

    What should I say?

  5. I so agree with all you have said in this post. I prefer to call myself a pacifist and do not like the “warrior” mentality when addressing any challenge. I think of this diagnosis as a journey I am taking, not a fight I am waging. I also bristle when people say you ‘just have to have a positive attitude…” I don’t disagree that a positive attitude is helpful in life generally, but I always worry about those people who die anyway and they or their loved ones feel like they failed because their attitude just wasn’t positive enough.

    My sister was one of those who would not allow herself to cry or talk honestly about her feelings or the future her diagnosis held. None of us caring for her felt comfortable expressing our own feelings about her illness much less imagine what hers might be. She died from glioblastoma in April of this year, just days after I received my MM diagnosis. I am using that experience to shape my own response as I travel a similar but slightly different path. Peace to all on this path.

  6. I am not keen on the word warrior. I am not sure what word I would use though? I think what is hard is the initial grief that life won’t be the same again? It is also very easy to worry about what the future will or could hold. That has been the hardest part. However once you have found a way through that you realise how precious life is and what is worth worrying about and what isn’t…. that part of it is very freeing! I appreciate so much more. Also you hear so many times, after a diagnosis like this, people say “now I’m going to live my life how I always wanted to” ….. I think that It is such a shame that it takes this kind of diagnosis for people to really ‘live their lives’ that way!

    One thing I do know is that I am so glad to have found this blog it has bought me much comfort.

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