A few weeks ago, in the midst of total physical and emotional exhaustion, I found myself binging on Netflix. I have no idea how I managed to live life before Netflix? What did I do with my free time?
I got through the most recent season of Pretty Little Liars and was really struggling to find something else to watch. I stumbled across Chasing Life, an American show about a 24 year old with cancer. I normally avoid shows and movies about cancer, but I was desperate and thought I could justify it as research for the blog. I was expecting to pull it apart and criticise how ridiculous it was or I was setting myself up for lots of crying. I was so wrong on both accounts.
Chasing life is about 24 year old, April, who has just started working as a journalist trying to advance her career at a newspaper in Boston. She has a tight knit family who she lives with – her widowed mum, her grandmother and younger sister. April is diagnosed with Leukaemia. The first season watches how April handles her diagnosis, how she shares the news with her family and, in turn, how they cope, how she juggles work and her fear of falling behind in her pursuit for a successful career as a journalist, how she handles treatment and the changes to her body, and, of course there can’t be a TV show without a good old fashioned love story.
If you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now and come back to me after you binge on Netflix.
I think one of the big criticisms people would have of the show is how it does romanticise April’s experience with cancer. April falls in love with Leo a young man who also has cancer that she met in a cancer support group. Predictable, I know, but get over that one.
April and I are very similar in that our journey with cancer is very much a story of love, as much as it is a story of heartache. Although Serge and I had known each other a few months before we started dating, we ‘officially’ started dating the week I was told my melanoma had spread. We were engaged a few months later after the news that the cancer had progressed to stage 4, and married six months later.
Some questioned why our relationship moved so quickly. People questioned Serge’s intentions – was he just gifting a dying girl her dream of being married? Although these comments hurt us, we both knew that we were each other’s ‘great love’. Things may have moved faster than either of us predicted, but that is what happens when you experience in a few months more than most couples do in a lifetime.
So yay for April and Leo from me. I am all for finding love when life is shit!
You may ask what else I loved about this show… EVERYTHING!
It was such a well-researched show. It was like they were in my head and had been there for all the moments I cringed at what someone said to me, the moments I have cried, and the moments I have laughed. They had obviously spent a lot of time talking to young people with cancer.
One of my favourite things I have written about since being diagnosed are the silly, sometimes upsetting, yet always hilarious, things that people say to me.
· ‘Stay strong, keep on fighting.’
· ‘If you are positive you can beat this.’
· ‘This is God’s plan.’
· ‘Everything happens for a reason.’
· The long list of miracle cures
· etc etc.
The writers made sure that there were people who covered each and every one of the silly personalities that I had come across. And like for me it wasn’t necessarily strangers saying these things, they were sometimes the people closest to you who just want to believe that everything would be ok.
You had the characters that made up the support group. Leo was the cancer patient that tries to portray to everyone around him that he has come to terms with the seriousness of his cancer and has decided to live life on the edge and dangerously not caring about authority or his life. Then there’s Meg, a young cancer patient dealing with the end of her relationship. He couldn’t deal with her diagnosis and left her, which of course made her feel hopeless and unlovable.
My favourite of all characters was the gentlemen who introduced April to the support group. At first I didn’t think I would like him because he was at the market selling some juice to help cancer patients. You all know my thoughts on juices, green smoothies etc. I later learnt that he wasn’t selling this juice because he thought it was some kind of miracle cure, so I allowed myself to build a relationship with Gerald. Gerald had terminal cancer and had exhausted his treatment options. Instead of continuing to search for a cure, he had chosen to accept the news and enjoy the time he had left without the side effects of treatment. He was very wise and able to help April deal with her diagnosis. I am sure you will enjoy him as much as I did.
I found this show so refreshing. It was of course sad at points, but it also made me laugh. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I know that I will be suggesting this show to my family and friends and anyone who knows someone who is going through cancer. I really think watching this show would give family and friends an insight into how someone with cancer may be feeling. And, on the other hand, cancer patients will find themselves relating to the different characters and probably laughing a lot.