But the language professionals use when talking to us needs an overhaul
I am fed up with “just a scratch“.
No – I want to scream. Uttering that platitude usually means a painful dig as a nurse remembers to say this, but hasn’t been taught how to take blood or give an injection painlessly.
Or when NHS bigwigs pontificate that “the NHS is the envy of the world“, I want to ask “if it’s so good, why haven’t other countries copied the NHS?” During the ’80s, after the Falklands War, the Foreign Office arranged VIP visits of foreign doctors, surgeons and hospital administrators – with the bulk coming from all over America. These groups were paying good money to find out and learn how our Military Field Hospitals had had such an incredible survival rate. One felt very proud to be British.
Some groups went over to Belfast to see how hospitals coped with gunshot wounds. A large percentage of their visit would be devoted to spreading the NHS word. The groups went home in awe of what our medics accomplished, but not one of the official delegations from a country’s Ministry of Health ever copied the NHS system.
So take what the NHS announces with a massive pinch of salt, and what they say with a dose of cynicism! To help, here are a few of the top language traps you’ll probably encounter during treatment.
1. Calling cancer a gift is like the Dept. Health’s attempt to label us ‘consumers’ rather than patients. Luckily they have given up, as to me a consumer is someone who chooses to buy a product or service in a shop.
2. You can beat this if you just try hard. First thing we understand is that not all of us will ‘beat this’. So please don’t insult our intelligence.
3. Cancer is a fight. No – the fight comes when trying to get the best treatment for oneself, and with doctors and nurses who won’t listen when WE know what’s best for us.
4. Cancer transforms you into a new and improved version of your former self – e.g. cancer taught me so much. Who is kidding whom? Cancer turned me into a devious person who has learned every trick in the book to ensure I get the best treatment possible. For me it was learning how much better European cancer care is, and how to take advantage of it; how to contact my MP or MEP when the NHS was denying me treatment on cost – and use these people to ensure I got the correct care.
5. Volunteer: why are we supposed to give our time for free? Yes, many of us want to do what we can to help others in the same situation, but many of us need to earn money to replace the job we have lost.
6. ‘Pink October’ – and the way companies tie in advertising with ‘think pink’ just to gain ‘sympathy’ sales’ particularly around October time.
Cancer doesn’t mean we lose our marbles. Medical professionals please realise we are human, not just a Date of Birth.