Together we can beat war as a metaphor for cancer



If there is one difference I hope to make with Love for Now book it is to challenge the overwhelming use of war metaphor (‘Today saw the passing of X, after a short/long battle with cancer…’) to describe cancer. This is inadequate for three reasons.

Firstly, let me assure you, after a day on a chemotherapy drip you feel the battle is being done to you, not that you are choosing to fight in one yourself.

Secondly, the notion of a ‘battle’ places the responsibility of getting better upon the patient. This opens up the possibility that it is the ‘strong’ or ‘deserving’ patients who survive having cancer, and that those who die from it are somehow lacking in moral fibre. Please may I respectfully suggest that this is balls.

Thirdly, the idea of cancer as a battle unnecessarily romanticises cancer as a disease when there is nothing romantic about it. Consider the short sentence above, used almost always in the past tense and when someone has just died. Even though the battle has been lost we persist in reassuring ourselves that the deceased has ‘given it everything’. Like so much that is said about cancer by people who have not had it, it is uttered more to reassure the speaker than those having treatment for the disease.

If cancer is a battle, let it be one for the doctors and researchers, who can at least go home in the evening without throwing up their lunch.


Love for Now is a book-length diary of cancer, its treatment, side effects and consequences in the life of one family.


  1. I think of cancer as a dance, but one where the dancer doesn’t know the steps, the music or its rhythms, or how long the dance will be; sometimes the music is kind, and the dancer finds the tempo. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t seem sure whether to clap the rhythm or watch in respectful and supportive silence.


    1. Dear Kate
      Thank you so much for your kind and original comment. I had not thought of cancer as dancing, though the further I move away from it, the more like a series of set piece scenes it appears to me, with strange twists and turns. I like this very much, and am grateful to you for your interest.
      Yours with thanks


  2. Nothing so profound as Kate’s comment, just to say that the Serpentine pavilions are magnificent, aren’t they? Although 2012’s was difficult to take good photos of.


    1. Hello Huw thanks so much for commenting on this post. I thought it was a hard thing to photograph as well. When I went it was surrounded by people all trying to get a good shot. I circumvented the problem by taking a photo of someone taking a photo. The man in the photo is not me, but could be. As ever with good wishes and thanks Anthony Anthony Wilson

      You can buy Love for Now, my memoir of cancer, here

      Riddance, my new book of poems, is now available. You can buy it on my website here



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