I busted out laughing the first time I saw a trailer for 50/50. My laughs were interrupted by flashbacks prompted by scenes mirroring my life during diagnosis, active treatment and recovery such as shaving my head and the feeling of being “fine” (a.k.a. numb).
I loved the film. It feels like an authentic account of a young adult’s journey through cancer. However there is one glaring omission that requires clarity, in my opinion.
The film does a great job of representing so many of the major issues facing young adults dealing with cancer. Adam, the survivor, is encompassed by a “fog” upon hearing the “C” word, which is immediately combined with a trip to Google for more info. The relationship challenges—parental, intimate, and friendly—are featured prominently in the story. The chemo-room—a right of passage for all young adult survivors—features friendly survivors who likely graduated with our parents or grandparents.
Rage makes an appearance, and it was great to see. Great because it’s real, and it’s even better that Will Reiser (the writer of the screenplay and a survivor) had the courage to include this, which almost gives permission for other guy survivors to let that out. For many of us, including me, that doesn’t come easily.
Kyle’s (Seth Rogan) effort to connect with his friend, despite his immaturity, is a testament to all of those friends of ours who made huge effort to understand, be there, and help in any way they could. If you had even one of these friends, you were blessed.
While I laughed my ass off watching the trailer, it prompted me to wonder where my buddies got those clippers they used to shave my head prior to starting chemo! I still haven’t gotten a definitive answer.
I laughed while I watched the movie, and truly loved how so many of the scenes were as if they were written based on my story, not Will’s. Reality is that as young adults dealing with cancer our stories have much more in common than not. 50/50 sheds light on so many of these points of connection between young adults. This is a great service for the young adult cancer movement.
While it is authentic on so many fronts, the major issue I have with this film is that the uninformed masses who watch 50/50 will leave misinformed on the number one issue facing young adults after diagnosis: Isolation.
This, THE NUMBER ONE issue faced after diagnosis, wasn’t raised.
Challenges with fertility, friendship, loss of career, and fear of dying as you are just starting to live are important messages for the masses to hear and understand, but I feel a responsibility to ensure they know these issues—and many more—are so much heavier when wrapped in a blanket of isolation from other young adults with cancer.
Isolation from other young adults with cancer is the defining element of a young adults experience with cancer. Superhero researcher Dr. Brad Zebrack’s 2006 research showed we want to connect with other young adult survivors more than we want support from anyone else. In fact, his study showed 100 per cent of young adult survivors put opportunities to meet with other young adult survivors as a top 5 need (support from family and friends was a top 5 issue for 62 per cent of those same survivors).
YACC is dedicated to eliminating the isolation for young adults with cancer, and although 50/50 doesn’t address this issue, we thought the movie itself was a fantastic opportunity to connect our current network of survivors with more of the thousands not yet in our network.
This opportunity lead to the Give or Get campaign (www.giveorget.ca) which will see young adult survivors across the country connect and watch 50/50 together.
If you, or someone you know, was diagnosed with cancer between 15-39 please share the campaign site with them so they can request a ticket. If you have $12.75 to buy a ticket so a survivor can see the film, that would be awesome too!
A gift of $12.75 will give a young adult a ticket to a movie, but more importantly, it’s a ticket to a network of peers who truly get what they are living.
50/50 isn’t just raising the issues facing young adults with cancer, it will bring hundreds more of them out of isolation and that not so simple step will change their life forever.
Live life. Love life.