I’ve been tardy in my posting. I was waiting for the radiotherapy to start so that I’d have some stuff to talk about but in the waiting I’ve gotten out of the habit of sending postcards from the cancer trip. I’ll try to be better.
I’ve been pondering cancer in general and my experiences in particular and do have a bit to talk about. I thought I’d begin with the sometimes disempowering experience of being a cancer patient. I read some stuff in the paper today about Jim Stynes and his thoughts on putting yourself in the know, but getting your head around much of what goes on in hospitals and clinics is really uncharted territory for unseasoned travelers.
Much has been written by post-modern philosophers about hegemony, the power of language and the exclusivity of discourse. The theory goes that particular knowledges (eg., medicine) create specialised language or exclusive jargon that, in essence, provides a level of power to the owners of that language while disempowering those who are not in on it. To me this is writ large in the radiotherapy clinic. I don’t necessarily believe that the speakers of this language employ it in order to maintain their exclusivity, sending themselves on some kind of power trip… or ‘journey’. I think they’re too kind for that, but the effect is that you really don’t know what they’re talking about even though they’re talking about you.
“How’s the PRP on that?”
“Hmm, 92.5ish supe to base”.
The use of exclusive language coupled with the fact that you’re lying semi-naked on a bench surrounded by gigantic machinery that you know will burn you makes for a kinda disempowering experience. Oh, and while in this state you’re also being watched on camera. I go stupid and say “thank you” when they tell me they’re just going to bend my arm, or move my hips, or leave the room. It’s because they’re actually speaking to me in English… and powerless person that I am, I’m grateful.
Not that I’m not grateful. I am. I’m grateful that I have a superior GP, I’m grateful that the surgeons and oncologists and radiologists all have highly specialised talents and knowledge, I’m grateful for the humanity of nurses, I’m grateful for the love and support of my husband and family and friends, I’m grateful that I’m not going to die of cancer. I just wish I understood what the fuck they’re talking about.
Perhaps I’ll work it out eventually.