Have you named your tumour yet? Over time, I’ve noticed people within the cancer community giving their tumours names, so I thought I’d take a little look at what we are all calling our carcinomas…
Cancer, tumour, malignant carcinoma, these are scary words with (obviously!) a lot of negative connotations. They refer to cells gone bad, parts of our body going rogue against our will, medical terms tht are difficult to relate to and make us feel bad and sad.
The official name of my cancer was a grade three, triple negative, invasive ductal carcinoma… personally I preferred to refer to it as “the pesky little f**ker”. My whole family got on board with the name – even my mum who was in her late 60’s at the time and who I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard her swear in my whole life.
By giving it a name – particularly a derogatory one, it helped me to disassociate from the fact that my cells were going wonky, and instead enabled me to think of my tumour as a separate being, an annoying parasite that had taken up residence in my body that I could focus my energy on getting rid of.
Cancer sounds scary, pesky little f**ker sounds like an annoyance. Personally I found it helped me deal with finding myself having to wrangle with an aggressive form of breast cancer at just 40.
I asked some of my other cancer pals if they had named their tumours too, and found some common themes
ALL the swear words!
This was my approach and so obviously it is one I totally endorse… It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that knows me, but lots of my cancer friends are (like me) quite a sweary bunch. Never mind making a sailor blush, some of the names would make a sailor run home crying to his mother. There’s definitely not anything I can publish here, but I’m sure you can use your imagination, and I think if any situation justifies extreme swearing, cancer is definitely up there!
Quite a few of my friends named their tumour with human names – Syd, Gavin, Trevor. Obviously this group are much more genteel than I, but I have to say, I like this approach, and it is definitely more PG friendly than the route I took. Apparently, there is a whole theory called Anthropomorphism which is where as human beings we attribute human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities. By creating a persona and giving it a name, it can help to dissassociate from and de-escalate the feelings that the word tumour invokes. Talking about “Trevor” or saying “See you later Sid” makes everything feel more manageable, less threatening and makes it easier to talk about in normal conversation – something that is particularly useful around children.
Buttercup, Dobbie, Fluffy – how unthreatening do these nicknames sound? Who could be scared of anything named Fluffy. No further explanation required.
Named after a thing
One insta-pal told me that although she didnt give her tumour a name as such, due to its size and shape she always envisaged it like a mini plum tomato, and took great pleasure in violent chopping of tomatoes, imaging it was the tumour she was chopping into pieces. To this day, she still relishes chopping tomatoes when cooking. Which is definitely one way of making food prep more satisfying!
Named after an actual person or character
I have to say, these names seriously impressed me with their creativity. Generally named after disliked people or characters. Examples included: Evil Edna, Grotbags (both of these gave me serious childhood throwback vibes and I can totally get where they were coming from with this) Donald Lump (this one made me laugh out loud) but I think the overall winner in this category (and possibly overall) was the following direct quote “Dave, because my friends ex husband was called Dave, and he was a right tit!”
So there you have it, I’m sure there are loads more out there. I’d love to hear if any other great names you may have given your tumours, and if you haven’t named your tumour yet… give it a go. I look forward to hearing what you come up with.
Thanks to everyone who helped contribute to this article, you cracked me up with your responses! You are all awesome!