No One Wins When We Police Fight Terminology in Health Care

When we police a patient’s right to use fight terminology in health care, everyone loses from the absence of  their story.

When we police a person’s right to use fight terminology, everyone in healthcare loses from the absence of their story.

Articles and tweets advocating for the death of fight terminology in health care’s lexicon frequently pop into my social media feed. I understand this position. My heart bristles at the sound of the phrase “lost their battle.” Knowing what I do about pain and illness, I believe my friends and family’s deaths were not a capitulation, but an exit. Maybe you feel the same.


I also know this: In the fight for health, there is not a winner and loser, but there are many battles. To deny a person’s right to say this diminishes their truth. It’s also privileged and c

alloused thing to demand a fellow patient to edit their experience. (It’s jarring to see words like “privileged” alongside “illness.” Modern media would have us believe the inspiration fairy  bestowed us an extra dose humanity because of our illness and disability.) Centering yourself and your belief’s into someone else’s is wrong.


We are united by the unknown of illness. Some of us must watch our loved ones slowly die (or fear facing the same fate) because we can’t afford health care. Others remember holding in rage in a meeting with heads of the largest insurance companies to do right by everyone and us. Some have to leap to floors, even as we ache from cancer or arthritis, because they lived in war zones or dangerous neighborhoods. More patients than we realize walk into doctors’ offices scared of receiving poor care because of because they are a person of color, because of their sexuality or because they are transgender.


Some of us are tired of ringing the alarm bell and hearing silence, or worse, demands to censor our story. It is a fight. These three words don’t diminish your experience. It amplifies your experience by adding a perspective of health which isn’t yours. When the health care community considers the all of the public in public health, everyone wins.


We are human beings with rights to opinions. If your opinion is that we should strike fight terminology from your health care lexicon, the offending words will not come up in our conversations, at least not on purpose. It is disrespectful and dangerous for someone to silence voices in a health care, a community that needs them all.


We can always correct and educate someone who believes there are “wins and  losses” in illness. When we police a person’s right to use fight terminology, everyone in health care loses from the absence of their story. The ironic thing is every time someone scolds me for using fight terminology, fellow health advocates enter my social circle and counter with their experiences. We can learn so much from each other. Offending words, and goodness knows what else, keeps us part.


What a loss.

I am 39.

Health activist and patient, Dawn S. Smith, celebrates her birthday by reflecting at what she accomplished living while brain tumor.

Health activist and patient, Dawn S. Smith, celebrates her birthday by reflecting at what she accomplished while living with a brain tumor.

I am 39.

I am surviving two brain tumors.

I am fighting for my life and yours.

I am most wonderful.

Off The Sidelines

"I"m Still Here" witten into sand in beach.

Dawn Smith writes “I am still here” into sand on the beach after radiation treatment for her brain tumor.

They say the sidelines are where gladiators go to rest.
Some of us can race back on the field.
The rest of us warriors must ride the pine.

Rest. It is a marathon, not a sprint, they tell us.

Beware of gladiators prowling on the sidelines.
While the world eyes the battle on the field,
we soldiers find energy in our rest

Yes. Solders on the sidelines hunger for ground.

As the world whizzes pass, we gain life inch by inch.
Our movement is steady against the wind,
Our cause, sure. The field is ours today.

This field is ours today.

Off the Sidelines: 3 Survivors Move the World (EP 1)

In this first episode of It Could Happen to Anyone (, Dawn and Dionne refuse to let anything get in the way of an interview with brain tumor survivor, Lori Paul — not even their symptoms, lack of a cameraperson or a mountain of bloopers.