Just One Year
cancer and film

Cancer is a devastating disease that affects so many people. According to the American Cancer Society's pamphlet, "Cancer facts and figures, 2004," there were 1,368,038 new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States alone. In one's lifetime it is estimated that one in three men and one in four women will be diagnosed with cancer. With so many people touched by this disease one would think there would be a great number of films addressing this topic. There are a few films that deal with cancer; unfortunately it is all too common for them to be over-dramatized with the protagonist dying in the end. At age 25, I became all too aware of this void when I was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to see a story that would show a protagonist dealing with cancer and most off all I desperately wanted to see the protagonist survive. This is a common feeling among people diagnosed with cancer. Gary Sperling, a writer at Walt Disney Television Animation, wrote an article in 2002 for Slate that addresses these frustrations.

"When I began chemotherapy, the idea of an all-cancer film festival seemed-if not entirely natural, then not entirely sick and wrong either. I had hoped that watching these films would be a way of sharing in the communal cancer experience without having to do something drastic, like actually meeting other sick people. As an added bonus, videos go perfectly with the fetal position on the couch that's been such a comfort of late. . . . None of the movies comes close to conveying what it's like to live with the disease. . . . In not one cancer movie that I watched was a sick person asked something as basic as "How's it going?" thereby eliciting an insightful anecdote or a response befitting the surreal intensity of suffering from cancer. . . . Terms of Endearment, Brian's Song, and Wit typify something else about cancer movies: Virtually nobody makes it. Yet, according to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for all cancers is 62 percent, and for many individual types, the odds are even better. Clearly then, these movies are not really about cancer. The disease is just a convenient stand-in for impending death. A factual portrayal of the ill person's odds would only confuse the issue."

Mr. Sperling's frustrations speak to the lack of attention given this aspect of treatment. I can relate to his feelings. At 25 I was young, active and had my whole life ahead of me. Then on Thanksgiving I started coughing and found a lump on my throat. Within days I was in surgery to have the lump removed. The results showed a malignant tumor. Unfortunately, it didn't end there. X-rays showed that my lungs were riddled with more tumors. The diagnosis was lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. If I didn't undergo treatment I would be dead within the year. I was devastated; I couldn't believe this was happening to me. When I searched for films on this subject I was just as disappointed as Mr. Sperling. It seemed like no one knew what I was feeling except another person living with this disease. I wanted to see how other people my age dealt with a life threatening disease. It was at this point, after being diagnosed, that I decided to be the one to make the change. I decided to film my journey in order to help other people.