I would imagine that with the million stations that cable can bring into our homes, there are probably a good handful of programs that have cancer-related story-lines at any given time. The two that I am following now are House and The Big C. I’ve been watching House since its inception eight seasons ago. With all my crazy health issues (recently diagnosed Fibromyalgia and food allergies) I used to wish for my own Dr. House on a fairly regular basis. I am not at all put off by his abrasive personality; I grew up on Cape Cod, Gregory House is mild in comparison to some of folk I was raised up with. (I have also had a celebrity crush on Hugh Laurie since I first saw the Black Adder series – so that doesn’t hurt matters any at all.)
If you are not familiar with the program, The Big C is a Showtime series that is currently in its 3rd season. It details the life of Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) as she adapts to living with stage IV melanoma. In its first season, Cathy, who has decided not to undergo treatment for her cancer, re-evaluates all aspects of her life through the view of a person with a very limited amount of time to live. She keeps her diagnosis to herself and tries to grab the life that she has left and live it to its fullest. All the while, her family, her life, her world fall to chaos. As the series progresses, Cathy comes clean with her family, decides she has to fight (if not for herself then at least for her child) and gets in on a clinical trial.
One of my besties-from-high-school’s husband is a writer on the show, she recently face-booked that they just had the third season wrap party. So, I know Cathy is going to have at least one more year of fighting – maybe more… I looked at the website and noticed that the last episode is a season finale, not a series finale, so I am going with the notion that she will have at least another year to fight.
Although it is about a very serious topic, The Big C is at its core a comedy. Granted, it uses gallows humor, but I love that Cathy is able to laugh about her situation.
Honey and I tend to laugh through our tears (when we can). We begin every day knowing that our time may be limited and that we’d best make every moment count. I love that The Big C can speak to that aspect of being a survivor.
House, on the other hand, provides us with a more serious, dramatic cancer experience. House’s best friend of 20 years (James Wilson, ironically the head of the hospital’s oncology department) is diagnosed with stage 2 thymoma cancer. Surgery is not possible unless the tumor is shrunken, but the chemo that may shrink the tumor will be absolutely debilitating. We have certainly been there – hardest thing so far has been hearing that no reputable surgeon would operate to remove Blob – that doing so would only maybe give him five more months to live. Ouch.
I’ve gotta tell ya, the episode that aired this week (Post Mortem) was a doosie. Wilson struggles to make choices about exactly how he wants to deal with his cancer. He knows that he only has a handful of months left to live without treatment and likely won’t have much longer if he undergoes the chemo treatment. The only for-certain is that chemo will damn near to kill him in the process of destroying the cancer.
The concepts of dying with dignity, of not fighting the cancer are addressed with painful honesty. These are ideas that physically hurt the soul and awaken the awkward selfishness we feel when someone close to us is ill and we want them to be better because it hurts us to think of losing them. Watching House and Wilson confront their individual crises was like watching the last year of our lives all over again in just 43 minutes.
Honey has never suggested not getting treatment. I am sure that the idea has floated around in his mind, but at the core of his being he wants to live. He is experiencing all the negative side-effects of chemo (except losing his hair). He hurts, he can’t keep food down, he can’t sleep when he wants to, but is exhausted when he wants to be alert, his digestive system in wrecking havoc with him. But, his desire to see his children reach their milestones is significantly bigger than the pain. Four years ago, he was sure he wouldn’t live to see C graduate from kindergarten. Didn’t he surprise us all?
Next month, Honey will meet a major milestone of his own. He will officially be a five-year survivor of GBM. Woot.
Lets have a little party for ourselves.