I have finally broken down and watched an episode of the television show Chasing Life. I say “broken down” because I have whole-heartedly been avoiding the tv show up until now.
Why? You might ask.
Because cancer is tough. It is messy and sticky and awful. I lost my mom just 2 months before receiving my own diagnosis and I do not remember much of that time in a positive light. I remember feeling lonely, isolated, anxious, nauseous, and devastatingly sad. I always shrink away from those who write or speak about all of the good that has come from their journey with cancer…in fact I usually inwardly smirk and think something very creative like, great for them, blah blah blah. Now, I have discovered rebirth through my journey with cancer but that is another topic all together. Back to watching Chasing Life…
I decided that it was time to get down from the soap box that was my journey with cancer and experience what so many in the world have been experiencing through the tv series. I also decided that as a young adult cancer advocate, I better watch the damn show at least once!
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. I will admit to having only watched one episode…at least I’m trying!…but the show actually demonstrated many of the situations that I’d experienced in a very honest light. So, here are my two cents:
April, the cancer patient, has dark circles around her eyes during her treatments and hospital stay. Goodness gracious is this real life. Some of the stories in the media today (cough, falling stars, cough) show cancer patients looking bold and beautiful, as if nothing were happening. This could not be further from the truth. Some of those dark circles are still under my eyes…3.years.later.
The drama in the hospital was often true to what I’d experienced. The drama outside the hospital though, with her friends and family, that isn’t part of the story that the patient sees. April, stuck in the hospital, is lonely and scared…I don’t expect a television show to display only that though. Which is kind of my point! The cancer patient experiences the hard truth of cancer all.day.long. and isn’t able to escape into the love affairs of those around her.
In one scene, a friend talks to April about how uncomfortable he is around her. The friend explains that he doesn’t know what to say and what not to say. Man, oh man, do I wish it were that easy in real life….oh wait, it is…people just don’t often act that way! If people in real life would actually communicate that openly and honestly when they were uncomfortable, having cancer as a young adult wouldn’t be quite as isolating.
In another scene, April’s younger sister is talking with April. The younger sister says, “I don’t want to upset you.” to which April replies, “ummm. I have cancer. I’m already upset.” with the unspoken statement that April does want to hear what her sister has to say. Once again, if everyone actually communicated like this it would be wonderful. I found people to constantly micromanage what information I was given about their own lives, often leaving me in the dark about something substantial that happened to them. This.is.so.frustrating. Talk to your friends about your life as long as you do so when the moment is right. (not when they are crying about their own fears or so sick they are vomiting…just examples of not the right moment)
…and then, in the middle of episode 10, while April is having a break down in the chapel…I became a believer of the show, Chasing Life. She expressed, in that singular monologue, everything painful about being a young adult cancer survivor. It is lonely. Everyone around you is still going on living while you are stuck. The two characters talk about death. How scary and pervasive it is once cancer has entered your life. The weight of dealing with this new found appreciation of death, mortality, and suffering is massive as a young adult.
Overall, I found the show to be a mixture of reality and drama…though in a much more balanced ratio compared to other dramas about cancer I have come into contact with recently. Still, I remain skeptical. It would be great if people watched and learned about how to better deal with friends/family through cancer and other hard times. Maybe my skepticism is just fueled by my own grieving process about the support that I did or did not receiving through my own trauma. But now I ask you all…what do you think of the show Chasing Life? I’d love to know your thoughts!