Ok internet. I just watched 50/50 and wowsa. Lets just say I don’t know if its on my “need to see this again” list. Brief synopsis, 50/50 is about a 27 yr old named Adam who gets diagnosed with cancer. This type of cancer gives him a 50/50 chance of surviving and the movie is about his life while this happens. Watching the movie, there were parts that I just kept thinking, “yup, been there”…and it made me realize how common the reactions to sickness are. Whether it is the sick, or the friends/family of the sick…so many things translate from disease to disease. It struck home so much, I started making notes so I could blog about how similar things have been in my life to this movie. First thing to note…there will be spoilers for those of you who give a crap. Second, a reminder that I have gone through the disease diagnosis process twice, once with multiple sclerosis, and another with UC. I would even say that the surgery process is almost a 3rd all together. What I’m about to convey doesn’t necessarily mean it happened with my UC diagnosis…but well..it happened. This might be long, deal with it.
1. Shock of Diagnosis
In the movie Adam hears “cancer” and then tunes out to everything else. He has a real callous doctor give him his blunt and terrifying diagnosis without any compassion. I’ve been there, twice. I figure if it made it into the movie, it shows just how many doctors give us our diagnosis like they’re ordering from a drive through window. “You have to have your colon removed, and I’d like that super-sized”. I’m convinced there is shock that goes into a serious diagnosis, but when your doctor heaves it into your life without any preparation or empathy, I tend to think that the shock is greater. At least in my experience it has been.
2. Meeting Others in a Similar Boat
When Adam starts his chemo he meets other cancer patients. Ones that make him laugh about his cancer and ones that understand him and who he is. This interaction in the movie is brief, but in my life its been HUGE. This blog, the people who read it, my camp friends, all of you have made my life easier and more normal. You all form an invisible support system around me.
3. Significant Other Cheating
Adam’s douche bag girlfriend cheats on him….after her gave her an out. It seems like all too often this happens…but I can speak first hand. I have had two different boyfriends during my different health complications and have given them both an out. I think its only fair. No hard feelings, but I understand if this isn’t what you signed up for and it gets too hard. Well…even with the out, I’ve been cheated on. Its not ok, but its also not uncommon. Never underestimate the ability of other people to let you down.
4. Indulging in Your Disease and ..The Meds
Adam tried to use his cancer as a way to pick up chicks…and even though he starts the movie straight laced…eventually starts doing a lot of pot…mostly medicinal and a little extra. I’ve definitely gotten to the point where I’ve tried to make my diseases work for me…even if that just means handicapped parking. Eventually, even if you feel conflicted, you try to find the bright side in something. And how many of us haven’t taken a few oxy at a time? I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t popped one when I had a bad day…or taken too many at one time. Sometimes…the high off the meds is the only perk.
5. Death of Friends
Adam’s cancer friend dies. He takes it in stride, but you can tell he starts to give up..he starts to get scared. My friend Katie died last month of cancer. I know I don’t have cancer, but we’ve taken the same drugs, we both had IBD, it could have just as easily been me…or even you. Watching someone close to you in your life, with a similar condition pass away changes you. Not only does it scare the piss out of you, but it makes you second guess every pill, every doctor, every medical choice you’ve made and continue to make. When you surround yourself with sick people, like I do, and one of them dies it brings the realization that we all could die at any time. Not just the way anyone could get hit by a bus, but when we go in for surgery, with every new med or new test we take. I watching this thing on TV the other day about a regular 17 yr old kid that went into to get his wisdom teeth taken out, had a complication ended up in a coma, and woke up months later blind and with motor skills issues….anything can happen.
Adam doesn’t return phone calls back from his friends or his mom. He retracts and even stops really talking to his therapist. Done it all. I really think isolation is a HUGE part of the disease process. I could and probably will do a whole blog on isolation alone because it became such a huge part of my life. I didn’t return calls, I didn’t leave the house, hell, I didn’t even blog of facebook and those are red flags for me. I think that the uncertainty of your future can make you isolate yourself to protect yourself, but even subconsciously want to protect those close to you.
Adam’s chemo stops working and he has to have a very dangerous surgery to try to combat the cancer. At one point, he becomes wreckless then breaks down into tears and screaming. I know how to hold my shit together when I have to, and I’ve always done a decent job of doing that…but sometimes we lose it. You spend so much time keeping it together that when it all creeps up on you it just has to get out. You can have accepted your disease, and your future/fate but still be angry. I knew I was having surgery, multiple ones, but I was still angry that it was me, and I was terrified. The fear of it all is almost enough to kill you alone.
8. “Tired of being sick”
There is a point in the movie, before his surgery where Adam just says that hes tired of being sick. I wish I could express how many times I’ve said/felt this. Its a full time job being sick. It all becomes so draining, so emotionally and mentally exhausting that you’d give anything just to make it go away. From the doctors appointments, to the meds, and the wait times on the phone with the insurance company…it doesn’t seem fair that we have to be sick, and manage our sickness ourselves.
9. Being Out Of Options
When Adam’s chemo stops working, and hes faced with surgery, hes told that if that doesn’t work he has no other options. Now my story is very different than his, but I too have been out of options. I’d tried everything to keep my colon. Every med, every diet, every supplement…everything. Eventually I ran out of options, and having any kind of choice taken away from you is horrifying. When you lose the ability to make choices, even bad ones, that is when you start to feel super out of control.
10. The Moment You Fall Apart
He holds it together super well through the movie, but right before his surgery, laying in his hospital bed Adam loses it. He reaches out for his Mom and cries. I never lost it before surgery, but after, in recovery. I can remember a few times (probably drug induced) that I just wanted my Mom and I wanted someone else to make decisions for me and I just wanted to forget this was all my life. Specifically the moment I was told that my second surgery was a failure. I was high out of my mind on Dilaudid, but I still remember the utter devastation and calling my mom to come back to my room. I just needed someone to be there with me when I cried. Sometimes you just need to fall apart, even if it is right at the last minute.
Ok with that said. Also…don’t watch Love and Other Drugs alone. I saw so much of myself in that damn movie I was left feeling even more helpless and angry that Jake Gyllenhaal was not going to come and love me and my diseased brain, spine, and ass forever. I must say that I do give it to Hollywood for producing 2 films that I feel are pretty accurate in dealing with sickness, I just wish that the people who weren’t sick saw the truth in them.
Well, that was a downer.