Describe cancer in one word.
Hope. Fight. (Silence)
It’s not an easy question to answer, but that is how the documentary “What the [email protected]#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?” begins.
Medical professionals, cancer survivors, relatives of cancer fighters attempt to define in just one word the one thing, that for once in my life, left me speechless. As a recent breast cancer survivor, I have spent the last nine months dealing with six rounds of chemo, two surgeries, a shaved head, my “Dolly” wig, and physical changes and challenges, all the while trying to understand why I got cancer.
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I have gotten through it all with the love and support of family, friends, wonderful doctors & nurses and people near and far who always shared kind words. I researched everything I could and at times felt like I was on information overload. I like that—it’s part of my nature as a television news reporter for KNBC in Los Angeles. Yet, the whole time I wanted a book, a website, a “here’s what it’s all about” pamphlet.
And then, there came this movie. It was Los Angeles resident and the film’s creator, Allison W. Gryphon’s, reason for documenting her cancer struggles and successes in 2011. It was the film she wanted to see when she was diagnosed with stage IIIa breast cancer.
Gryphon tells her story with beautiful and bold images of her body pre- and post-surgeries. In home videos and interviews, she describes exactly how she is feeling and what symptoms she is going through at each stage of the process.
Cancer survivors of all ages describe the steps they took as well. They discuss their physical and emotional journeys—from going through chemo and losing their hair to what surprised, embarrassed or shocked them throughout it all.
Doctors, primarily from Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, CA, answer questions about the process. From the difference between a mastectomy and lumpectomy to how nausea is suppressed with medicine during chemo treatments, you learn the what and why behind the doctor’s various treatments, including why Benadryl and steroids are administered during chemotherapy. I never knew that until I went through it.
In the film, survivors discuss their various experiences—Gryphon describes that metallic taste in your mouth after treatments. As I was watching the film, I could almost taste it right then and there. It sometimes felt like it would never go away (but it does).
There are no exact answers and that is the beauty of the film. It informs without telling you how it is going to be. If you are as lucky as Gryphon and me (full disclosure: we were both treated by breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Jeannie Shen) to find medical professionals who understand the person and treat the individual, then you can understand how extremely important talking with, not at someone is, especially in this situation.
Giving people as much knowledge as possible when dealing with cancer was one of the major reasons I decided to tell my story and share aspects I found beneficial during my recent fight.
Lymphedema, working out during chemo, acupuncture as treatment, getting a tattoo and expressing oneself honestly, having a baby while going through chemo, “dendritic cells” and groundbreaking cancer research—these are just some of the topics discussed during the nearly two hour documentary.
At first, I was nervous to watch the film. After completing my treatment, I wasn’t sure I was ready to revisit my experience. Yet all it did was bring back memories. It reminded me of all the good that came through this experience. Yes, I said good! It reminded me of how important it is for the patient and all those around him or her to be in control of the things you can control during cancer. And it reminded me of the many times I felt inspired and empowered.
Information about “What The [email protected]#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have It?” can be found at www.thewhyfoundation.org. The film is downloadable on iTunes. And you can check out our links on www.NBCLA.com to discover information about fighting the fight. Remember, we are all in it together!