Saturday, May 28, 2016

Churchill and cancer

The other night Teresa and I watched an HBO movie about Churchill during World War II. Here's one of the things he said, in a speech to Parliament in June 1940 as the German Army swept through West Europe: 

[W]e shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender[.]

The speech helped sustain Britain’s morale in very dark days, and the story of that fight is still gripping. But it occurred to me afterwards that Churchill’s words also provide a pretty good metaphor for what’s involved in fighting off cancer.

This is what’s needed: to mobilize every cell in the body to fight the disease. Churchill’s words, conjuring up images of Britain’s fields and streets and hills, helped the people of Britain to visualize the struggle ahead and commit to it. Visualization, however, isn’t just a rhetorical move; it’s also a technique for people suffering from illness to envision and so help elicit their own physical triumph over their disease. 

The visualization techniques I’ve tried so far tend to be more spiritual and less martial than Churchill, and I think that their quieter reassurance has been helpful. Now, though, I’m feeling that Churchill’s powerful picture of a nation committed to the fight can also help me to mobilize each of my cells for the fight I’m in.

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