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50/50 March 1, 2012

Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
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I recently watched the movie 50/50, a comedy inspired by the true story of a 27 year old man who discovers he has cancer and the struggles he encounters. I know it’s hard to imagine a movie about someone battling cancer to be funny but It’s well written and keenly sharp in honing in on some of the more uncomfortable aspects of attempting to live while while going through the fight. It’s an entertaining look into the process, complexity of the relationships and struggles that can be faced, but it’s all done with great warmth. Of course, there’s a lot missing, like the stressful financial aspects and insurance company battles and so on, but a movie can only do so much, and that wasn’t its purpose.

In one part of the movie I was astounded to see the protagonist having to take the public bus system home after going through his regular chemotherapy at the hospital.  After watching what K went through I can’t imagine anyone having to do that, particularly with the type of chemo it looked like he was getting; but perhaps it’s not that uncommon. Chemotherapy takes on many forms but from what I have seen it can be an absolutely brutal treatment reducing the person to a thin and terribly weakened state in which sleep becomes the primary activity.

There are quite a number of chemotherapy treatments and a variety of ways they are administered.  In the first round of chemo that K went through, a port was inserted in her upper chest that allowed the chemo to be administered directly into one of the heart’s atriums. Having this installed was an operation that took part of a day and the port stayed in until her death without any problem. I hated that this had to be done to her, but she was cool about it. Having the port provided some convenience in that she was able to take the chemo treatment 24 hrs a day at home or anywhere else. This was accomplished by having her hooked up to a small portable box that dripped the drugs through the port into her system eliminating the need to run back and forth to the clinic. I can’t tell you how much I ached for her each day she was attached to that box curled up on the bed hours on end hardly able to move but it’s the price we figured must be paid to get cured.

In the movie, the main character, Adam, starts off having his girlfriend take care of him. His mother also wants to help (played by Angelica Huston) but he wants nothing of it because he finds her to overbearing. His good friend, Kyle, can think of nothing but how cancer can be a real turn on for women and a great way to get a lot sex. That being said, their friendship is strong and caring, and a great support for Adam.  This is an amusing picture of the loneliness, stress and cluelessness someone could face today in a similar situation. Having to go through complicated relationships and strained communication when you are grappling with the thought you may die soon, while at the same time getting beat up from chemo, would be totally overwhelming and  cause me to flee to a cave.

If you are going to be supporting someone about to get chemotherapy take time to learn about the side effects for that particular treatment so you are ready to help. Don’t be surprised to find them exhibiting overwhelming weakness, frailty, big loss of weight, loss of hair, incontinence, intense nausea, vomiting and much more.

If you want to get information about the different types of chemotherapy and their side effects here are some good sites:

  • National Cancer Institute  NCI is part of the government’s National Institute of Health. This link will take you right to the chemotherapy resource page.
  • Chemocare.com  Lots of great information, stories (including one by Scott Hamilton the Olympic gold medalist figure skater)
  • Cancer.org  Site of the American Cancer Society. This link will take you directly to the Chemotherapy page.

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