Ordinarily when I sit in a movie theater with tears streaming down my face and a lump building in my throat, I feel a little silly. After all, the guy ALWAYS gets the girl, and the wounded animal ALWAYS comes back to win the race or save the day or make the winning basket. (Yes, I did cry a little in AirBud. I’m not proud of it.)
But today, the tears started almost instantly and didn’t stop until well after the movie was over. And I didn’t feel a bit silly. Today, I was watching the new movie 50/50, about a young man who is diagnosed with cancer and survives.
I wasn’t sure if I should watch a movie about cancer while I am in the middle of cancer treatment. After all, even just hearing a little too much bad news from my mom about family friends and family members recently threatened to sink me into despair. But after doing a bit of research to make sure the plot wouldn’t be too depressing, I decided I needed to support movies like this one, movies that both educate and provide hope.
Much of the movie falls into two categories: crude or humorous. Afterall, the movie is produced by Seth Rogen, star and producer of movies such as Superbad and Pineapple Express, who plays best friend, Kyle, in 50/50. But Rogen also is the real-life best friend of Will Reiser, screen writer and the cancer survivor whose story is portrayed, thus lending a credibility to the occasional heart felt moments in the film.
One particularly funny scene in the movie was an office party thrown by Kyle to help cheer up Adam after just learning of his cancer diagnosis. One by one, coworkers approach Adam trying to connect with his news. “You’re going to be fine,” one person tells him. “My uncle had the exact same thing,” another confides. His boss throws his arms around him, saying, “I’m really going to miss you,” as though he’s never coming back.
I’ve had those same conversations.
Several other points in the movie seemed right on as well: the difficulty of telling the news to close friends and family, having someone promise to stick by me and then walk away, the realization that this disease might kill me, and coming to terms with the effect the disease has on people around me, not just me.
Of course, this was a Hollywood film, so not every part seemed so realistic, like when the cancer patients all sat around eating marijuana-laced macaroons. I also thought Adam going out on a date just a few weeks out from cancer treatment felt a little unrealistic, but maybe that’s just me. Understanding how to consider my singleness and dating in light of cancer treatment has been one of the hardest parts of being a survivor for me.
In the end, though, I would encourage lots of people to see this movie, especially knowing that it was written by a cancer survivor.
Several friends and I were having dinner last night, and in our discussion, we were talking about people in our church who were recently diagnosed with cancer, as well as others we know who have survived the disease, even people who had very advanced disease and have beaten the odds. People like me.
“I think they should talk about people who survive cancer every night on the news,” I said, “because we don’t hear about the good news very often.”
So, tonight, another story of another survivor – Will Reiser. And you can even see his story for yourself!