Of Life and Battles

I’m deeply saddened to learn that Lisa Bonchek Adams passed away last night. Anyone who has read her blog knows of her beautiful prose, the love for her husband and children, and the honest no-sugar-coated way she chronicled the disease to which she ultimately succumbed.DSCF1967

A lot of people in the cancer community detest the word “battle” when used to describe one’s relationship with cancer. The media however loves this cliche buzz word. Journalists robotically pull it out of their grab bags whenever someone dies from cancer, as in, “She lost her courageous battle with cancer.”

Personally, I don’t quite understand the heat around the word “battle.” I have a problem with lazy journalistic cliches, but not “battle” in and of itself. It’s seems an apt description of the days and years in which one endures cancer whether they die or live to tell the story. I don’t for a second see it as a win or lose scenario. It’s just a fight to get through another day and a harrowing time. Don’t we all actively engage in whatever it takes to hang on? I don’t limit this to cancer. I see all of life’s difficulties as battles in which we must cultivate and utilize perseverance to get through.

Ultimately, everyone’s demise is assured. If I don’t die today, I’ll die tomorrow. When I’m finished with my role in the play of life, I’ll exit the theater and be done.

Here’s a cliché that leaves me stumped: Life is good. Life is good for some people and it’s good for all people some of the time. There lies the rub. While life is often good, at some point it’s a heartless bitch. Life occasionally forgets to take her meds and goes berserk at our expense. At that point, you engage in a wrestling match until you tame the beast and once again enter a time of peace.

Cancer enters the lives of many people, but there are some things cancer can’t touch. It can’t diminish our love for those around us. It can’t destroy the spark of life that is our essence. It can’t make assholes out of good people. It can’t change who we are, how we love or the manner in which we treat people. It can wreck our bodies and fog the mirrors of  our minds, but it can never tamper with the beauty that is the foundation of our very selves.

I know this was true of Lisa Adams, Donna Peach, my friend Maxwell, my father, and so many others who exited the theater too soon. I still remember my dad’s body ravaged by cancer, the skeleton of a man who had been robust and strong. I remember the way his eyes shone from his chemo-drawn face. The way his smile lit the room like a thousand rays of sunlight only weeks from his own death. And I knew then that there are some things cancer can’t touch. It may ultimately bounce you out of the theater, but it can never manipulate how you play your role even as you step off the stage.

Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.
–Lisa Bonchek Adams


  1. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. We will always treasure Lisa and her courage to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Thanks so much for your eloquent writing and for defending the use of the word “battle” as it applies to cancer. I’m almost afraid to use any word typically associated with cancer (especially by journalists) to avoid offending cancer “survivors” or “veterans” or whatever moniker the community would rather adopt. I feel we have started a battle of words that we should be directing instead to eradicating cancer. xxx

    • Oh, Jan, I’m so glad I’m not alone about … the “B” word. I agree with you. I recognize how one’s word choice can annoy, empower, anger, provoke, and so forth, and the connotations of those word choices, but those connotations are not always what’s implied and certainly not meant to hurt. It’s best to direct our energy elsewhere. xoxo

  2. This is such a thoughtful and thought-provoking post Eileen. I remember my Mum’s cancer ordeal and I would definitely describe that as a battle. She’d frequently say “I’m going to come through” almost like a mantra. Sadly she didn’t but that wasn’t her fault, just like Lisa, Donna, Maxwell and your Dad – the outcome wasn’t their fault. And it seems to me this is what happens in battles all all sorts and sizes because life is always lost and no-one ever really wins.

    • Tracy, I agree. In fact, I don’t even look at it as no one really wins. At some point, the game is just over and each exits in her own way. It’s so hard to accept the loss, but it truly is life coming full circle.


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