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What We’re Talking About Now: HEALTHY


Photo Credit: Mass General Cancer Center

The Mass General Cancer Center community has been chatting about the word “healthy” recently.  We wanted to look back over some of the perspectives and comments, to try and get a better sense of the different things this word can mean to each of us, as well as point out the similarities between all of our points of view.

This conversation was often focused on the difference between ‘feeling’ healthy, and ‘being’ healthy, in several different ways. Physician Don asked one important question around this idea: “What is physical health if we are not mentally or spiritually healthy as well?” Many writers seemed to agree with Don that the clinical ways we can measure health can only tell the story of being healthy in body. Patient Betsy wrote about this disparity in her own case, saying “It was pretty clear, objectively speaking, that I was not healthy […] and yet, I felt great!” The complete story of health also must include things like mental and emotional well-being.

These different aspects of healthy mean that we must remember, as patient Anne wrote, that “A cancer free body is a starting point, and it is quickly followed by a mind… that *believes* that it is cancer free”. This “whole picture” sense of being healthy is not just an interesting idea–it is very important for those living with and fighting cancer.

Another one of the challenges facing all members of the cancer community is retaining the sense of empathy about “how being sick feels.” As patient Ted wrote, we all seem to have a built-in eraser that makes it impossible…to really remember how being sick feels”.


We’ve generated a word cloud you can see here, which shows the most popular terms that were used in all the content on the our blog, What We Talk About [When We Talk About Cancer] this month. Bigger words on the word cloud have been used most often, and smaller ones a little less often. (We filtered out the keywords “Cancer” and “Healthy” from the cloud).

Looking at the word cloud shows one interesting thing in particular: The most popular word is “feeling,” which is in line with lots of the perspectives in this conversation. Health is about how you feel almost as much as how you medically are.

Patient Chloe added a very important comment, which sometimes we may not really take as seriously as we could. Whether we mean physical, emotional, or any other kind of “healthy,” and whether we are a patient, family member or clinician, “Too many people take being healthy for granted.”