Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Funny People....and Cancer

I watched the movie "Funny People" last week during the epic Northern Virginia/Washington DC snowstorm. We had LOTS of time on our hands. Of course, I should have finished up all of those lingering projects, but I didn't. Mainly just watched movies and enjoyed the family.


Funny People was, well, kinda funny, but I was blindsided by Adam Sandler's charater who was diagnosed with cancer. Specifically, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Two things "got me" about the portrayal of his cancer:

8% chance of surviving on experiment drugs...and it worked.

Sandler's character talked to his doctor about test results in one of the early scenes, and I believe he said AML, stage 4. Definitely said he had an 8% chance of survival but only if he tried this experimental drug regimen (I'm thinking this is a clinical trial).

At this point, he starts getting his affairs in order, take a mentor under his wings (Seth Rogen), and starts taking the experimental drugs. They do show him throwing up in one scene, but otherwise, he's on a comedy tour. Was surprised by that but also was thinking, "He's doing what he wants with his last days. Good for him."

He also reconnects with family and an ex-fiance, a big part of the story. I at least won't divulge THAT here.

Then about 3/4 of the way through the movie, his doctor calls him in to say the treatment is working. No sign of the cancer. Secretly, and now publicly, I'm frustrated by this.

I know this happens, and thank goodness it happens in real life, but I wanted this movie to show the struggles of a young person with cancer dealing with his own mortality IN THE FACE not dodging the bullet. I feel cynical and weird about this...feel free to show me the other side of thie coin on this, but I wanted this movie to go down a different path.

Side note/rant: I believe every cancer diagnosis is unique to that individual. An acquaintance of mine was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about a year before I was. Shortly after my treatment, we informally discussed our treatment, etc. She had a relatively straightforward and easy surgery. Mine was complicated, and I was in the hospital four days. She struggled with the radioactive treatment, and I didn't at all. All that said, we are as unique as our diagnoses and reactions.
I'm going to survive this? Wow, now what?

After Sandler's character is told he is going to live, or at least they were realistic and said that he's in remission for now, he struggles with the "wow, I'm going to make it" factor. Does he go this route:

OK, back to normal. Wait....it can't ever really go back to normal after this crap I've been through, but I'm going to try.
OR....will I go the route of righting the wrongs. Changing everything.

OR....what the heck do I do now? I'll just do nothing.

OR...what am I going to do if it comes back? will it come back?

I feel like I've hit all of those somewhere in the last 18 months and have not settled on one but a blending of all three. I have been a bit frustrated with people around me that say, "You haven't had cancer in a year. So glad you are done with it!" Yep, so glad that I haven't had cancer in a year but...the experience, the lessons, the pain - both emotional and physical, and the after effects, which can be different, just like that diagnosis is different, it all changes you a bit. I think mostly for the better, but there is some bad mixed in there.

Be patient with us cancer survivors, friends. Even after we are in remission or live or look better, there are often still some battles to be fought. And some good days as well where we don't even think about it anymore.

And rent Funny People. Cancer or not, it's, well, funny.


  1. Isn't it hard to feel it's "OVER" when they are still always looking for those nasty, lurking, cancer cells. Even in the few years I had between first and second surgeries, I never felt it was over. It's like being stalked, and always watching over your shoulder.

    I agree, though, there are a lot of changes for good that occur with cancer. Great post. I love your honesty.

  2. Hey, I'm a friend of Momma Mindy's. :-) I jumped over to your blog when she mentioned you.

    I'm only starting my journey of "beating cancer." What you said was good! There is so much to think about and it is nice to know there are others in it with you.

    Praying for you and your treatments this week!