Jenni Murray: Robin Gibb didn't lose any 'battle'

What impact would it have had on more virulent cases if I'd crowed about my 'victory'?

Share
Related Topics

Robin Gibb was the Bee Gee with the falsetto voice who, together with two of his brothers, provided the soundtrack to some of the most joyous moments of the youth of my generation. So it was sad to hear of his death. But at the same time it is infuriating to read and hear, over and over (including, it must be said, in this newspaper) that he "has lost his battle with cancer".

I'm at a loss to know why, despite a number of us who've been through the dread diagnosis and subsequent treatment pointing out that such pugilistic terminology is entirely inappropriate, we continue to be given the impression that death from cancer is somehow an indication of failure to have the moral fibre to fight and defeat it.

Cancer comes in many forms. Some are swiftly lethal, others take their time to kill. Some, given early diagnosis and fast, good treatment, can be cured. Robin Gibb had colon cancer – notoriously difficult to diagnose, as there are few early signs to send you rushing to the doctor. It went walkabout into his liver. He had a very slim chance of survival.

Dealing with cancer has nothing to do with battling or fighting or positive thinking. I was fortunate. I had a relatively early-stage hormone receptor breast cancer. It hadn't spread. It's probably the best researched form of the disease. I gritted my teeth, put my trust in my oncologist, tried not to get too depressed about surgery and chemotherapy and, six years on, I'm still here.

But, supposing I'd crowed about my "victory" or put my survival down to the power of positive thought. What impact would that have had on the young women who had a more virulent strain and knew they were dying? Dina Rabinovitch or Jade Goody, for example. Would they have beaten themselves up, feeling they simply hadn't fought hard enough?

I've been appalled this week that a generally well researched medical drama, House, as it comes to a close, has the central character encouraging his best friend, Wilson, to "fight" his diagnosis of Stage 2 Thymoma – a rare cancer sited in the thymus, a small organ under the breastbone.

Wilson is an oncologist and reckons he has some five months to live. He's made the pragmatic decision to forgo the pain and distress of further chemotherapy to gain, perhaps, a few more months. He just wants to find as much pleasure in what little time he has left with his hair and his dignity intact. He knows enough about the disease to be aware that no amount of fight will make the blindest bit of difference to his prognosis.

So, please, no more talk of "the big C" as a war zone. RIP Robin Gibb with an acknowledgement that he drew the short straw of a difficult disease and a sigh of relief from those of us who are "staying alive" that we were just lucky to get a kinder type of cancer.

 

Jenni Murray presents 'Woman's Hour' on Radio 4

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea