The POWER of words

A friend recently wrote how the oncologist saying her cancer was getting ‘worse’ had a much greater impact on her than the expression that the cancer was ‘progressing’.  Cancer can make you extraordinarily sensitive to every nuisance of what the oncologist says to you.  For instance a couple of weeks ago I saw my oncologist for a three monthly check-in.  He gave me an examination and listened to my lungs and just said that they sounded ok and the my blood test results were fairly normal … to most people that would be good, but to a cancer patient … why didn’t he say that my lungs were clear?  Why didn’t he say my blood test results were just fine?

With cancer comes a hypersensitivity of interpreting what others say and mean.  That interpretation is also reliant on the mood of the individual on any particular day.  What can be a joke or a light hearted remark on one day can be highly offensive on another day.  Personally I use the analogy that I could be hit by a bus one day, but say that to some folks with cancer and they will be sharpening their nails and getting ready to attack.

The way you same something can have a different connotation depending on the inflection in a voice and the emphasis put on the words.  It is harder to convey that in the written word, to the point that sometimes I wonder if the other person has read the same piece as me.  Words on paper can be flat and characterless, but the spoken word has so many more possibilities to get a message across.

Worse is just a word and can be used to mean the same as progression in this case; and yet progression can somehow imply that things could also be getting just a tiny bit worse, and possibly if you take it with a positive spin it could mean that things are getting better.  Progression can imply a negative or a positive interpretation.  Worse … only implies the negative.

The comments of my oncologist probably means that things are still ok, but there is just that sliver of doubt that has pierced my mind and has left a tiny bit of doubt.  Oh, the power of words.


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