Cancer in Teens and Young Adults – Are they getting it right?
Cancer is top of mind right now with October being breast cancer awareness month. Pink ribbons, walks and telethons are an everyday event in October. What isn’t always talked about is a small group of people that get cancer too…….teenagers. Being a teen is hard. Am I wearing the right thing? Does he like me? Will I get into my first choice college? I just crashed dad’s car! It all seems pretty trivial on paper, but they are all important things to a teenager. Being diagnosed with cancer while your hormones are in a range certainly doesn’t help. Often times teens just want to be “normal” or ‘fit in”. Those trivial things are things they actually want to experience after being diagnosed with a life threatening disease. Cancer in teens and young adults are such a small percent of the cancer population; rarely does the media focus on this group…until now! Recently pop culture has grabbed on to this niche group of fighters and it looks like they’re holding strong. With shows like The Big C, The Red Band Society and A fault in Our Stars, do they have it right? Are they relating to this group of people? Is one show better than another? It might not be black and white.
Lets start with A Fault In Our Stars: This movie gets great reviews and was loved by teens for its romantic theme, but is it accurate? Not really. According to an article by Charles Hemenway, MD, PhD. (Pediatric Oncologist), the movie is not very accurate. He states, “For the most part these are things that we don’t typically encounter. It’s a dramatic fictional piece of work, so that’s fine — poetic license is up to the author, but it deviates from what we typically encounter,” Hemenway told HemOnc Today. He goes on to say, “I think the important thing to realize is that cancer in children is highly treatable and ultimately curable. Yes, we see sad outcomes in which children die, but this book tends to focus only on one side of it that’s not all that accurate. If you want to look at the big picture, outcomes are usually good,” he said. “It’s true that there are many sad stories in pediatric oncology but I think it’s perhaps not appropriate to focus exclusively on that.” For the full article with details about the accuracy of the movie visit HemOncToday
The newest TV Series on the scene is The Red Band Society. Recently added to Fox, the show features teens in the hospital overcoming cancer, an oversized heart, an eating disorder and is narrated by a boy in a coma. An article written by Kayla Redig (young adult and cancer survivor) takes us through the show The Red Band Society from her perspective and gives us her thoughts on A Fault In Our Stars. She states this when referring to the character Charlie from the show “These lines could sound cheesy to the average viewer but I found comfort in them. As a patient it is so easy to find yourself lost in the shuffle of appointments, tests, and treatments; you become robotic at times. Finding ways to remember who you are outside of your illness is powerful and keeps your spirit alive. During my illness, I remember forcing myself to go to a concert with friends so I could have just an hour of something “normal.” We all have times of struggle in life, cancer or not, and while there can be support from others, we have to find strength from within to endure, and Charlie reminded me of that.” When she mentions the movie A Fault in Our Stars she says “Watching The Fault In Our Stars was like watching the past year and a half of my life on a big screen.” Then goes on to say “I saw The Fault In Our Stars with a friend who has been by my side through every treatment. By the end of the movie we were covered in used up tissues and tears, and our eyes were swollen shut. It broke something inside me; not because it made me relive painful moments but because it made me realize how many others have to live their lives like this. But it also made me feel less alone. John Greene, the writer of the book that the movie was based on, was able to express feelings I’ve spent months searching for.” For the full article with details about the hospital set and her personal experience visit the Huffington Post.
It looks like for now the writers are doing a pretty good job at relating to teens. We will have to remember that whether it’s cancer, war or just comedy, these shows are for your viewing pleasure. Accuracy is always a topic of controversy in today’s entertainment and will continue to be as long as people have different experiences.