I’ve hated the word “journey” ever since I was diagnosed with cancer. When first diagnosed, you enter a surreal world in which you are purported to be many things you are not: a hero, a fighter, a warrior, an inspiration, and on a journey. It’s crazy, because it happens in no other medical condition; at least none that I’m aware of. These words are allegedly said to “comfort” the sick person, although I think they are really used to help the speaker avoid the discomfort of facing death.
For some reason though, the word “journey” really got me. It felt ingenuous at best; demeaning and ignorant at it’s worst. In some other writing I’ve been doing I decided to look up the definition of the word. According to dictionary.com, the word journey means:
1. Noun: an act of traveling from one place to another.
2. Verb: to travel somewhere.
No wonder I was so offended at the use of the word “journey” to describe a battle with cancer. A “journey” is a jaunt across Europe, perhaps on the EuroRail, having tea and biscuits in the afternoon. This makes so much sense to me now, especially because while those never diagnosed with cancer refer to our “journey”, those of us who have actually had cancer scoff at the word. Without being able to put it in words, every cancer victim I’ve ever met has been insulted by the word, and now it’s clear to me why.
In my writing, I’ve decided to use the word Trek. According to dictionary.com, trek means:
a long arduous journey, especially one made on foot.
The word Trek acknowledges the difficulty of a cancer diagnosis. It is a long and arduous; not just a journey.
I have been accused of being overly sensitive, and as I write, I become increasingly aware of the words I use. The Four Agreements, written by Miguel Ruiz, states that the 1st of the four agreements we must commit to in order to lead a happy life is the be impeccable with our words. I find myself, more often than I care to admit, not being careful with my words, which creates unnecessary pain for others. It is essential to weigh our words carefully, and I, in my anxiety and desire to reduce stress and conflict, often use words I come to regret. I am working on this, although I’m not sure how much progress I’ve made!
One thing I am 100% sure of though is that I will never refer to someone in a painful circumstance as going through a “journey”. This word diminishes the difficulty and pain, and is ultimately hurtful, rather than helpful, to the sufferer.
I myself, am on a Trek of self-discovery. I hope to never Trek through cancer again, but I know that it is highly likely I will succumb to the disease again, and find myself on another Trek.
If I do, please don’t refer to my “journey”. Unless, I suppose, you have tea and biscuits to offer. Although, I’ll probably be too nauseous and sick to partake, so……just don’t talk about my “journey”. Talk about my Trek.