A hand holding a remote pointed at a cancer patient on TV

Portrayals of Cancer in Movies and Shows

It happens pretty often. You'll be watching a television show or movie, and then suddenly, BAM, the main character or someone they love has cancer. Can we ever escape portrayals of cancer in the media? Probably not.

Characters with cancer in the media

I'm almost positive you could name a few shows off of the top of your head with a plot line involving cancer. Most of the time, it's fast and only takes up a little of the main story. Sometimes, it is the main storyline (Breaking Bad, I'm looking at you), and often, it's hidden in the seasons, passing as quickly as it came.

Weeds wrote a fantastic character arc for a character with cancer, and The L Word had a heartbreaking end to a character's story in season 3. Cancer is truly everywhere in the media, good or bad.

Grappling with emotions and a cancer diagnosis

My wife, K, and I show each other movies and shows, and we take turns each time we start a new show. This time, it's K's turn to choose, and she picked the drama Nashville. It's a wonderful show, and although I don't listen to country music regularly, it's very entertaining. Right now, where we are in the show, there is a character with cancer, and they're being portrayed pretty well, in my opinion.

The story involves a character, their cancer journey, and their newfound relationship with their daughter. It shows a lot of the emotions that can come up when dealing with a late-stage diagnosis, and I think it's pretty accurate. I remember when I was first re-diagnosed with stage 4, I couldn't even look at my daughter without crying. You can't help it! The feelings come flooding in, and it's hard to stop them.

Reflecting on my emotions

Will I see my daughter chase her dreams? Will I see her fall in love? Will I get to see her grow into adulthood, whatever that may mean for her?

These kinds of thoughts are hard to shake off when you don't know when your last days will be, but you know they will arrive sooner than you had hoped.

Why is death so hard to talk about?

Dying is the next part of life, right? If that's the case, why is it so hard to talk about? Why is it so hard to come to terms with this?

For me, it's really hard to picture leaving all of this behind: my beautiful and loving wife, my smart and absolutely hilarious daughter, and my friends worldwide. I know that may seem silly, but it's tough to think it will all have to end sooner than I want. It makes the desperation of living your life to the fullest more present. That is a lot of pressure to feel!

The media opening up a dialogue

In the media we consume, we see what happens "after." That is a little comforting, but it's still a scary concept. Humans tend to fear the unknown the most, and death is the most unknown aspect of life.

I'm happy to see more conversations surrounding this aspect of living with cancer. Normalizing these discussions is important so that folks feel more at ease if they do receive a late-stage diagnosis.

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