Making Cancer Afraid of Us: Changing the Dialogue on Cancer With "The C Word"

A new documentary may change the conversation around cancer.
Meghan O’Hara wants to change the world with her new documentary film, "The C Word." Or, at least, she wants to change the way the world looks at and thinks about cancer.
“The big thing that I would like to do is move the needle on the dialogue and the action around this disease as much as we can,” she said in an interview with CURE.
O’Hara is an accomplished producer and director, who has worked on the documentaries “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “Sicko.” While “Sicko,” in tackling the health care and the insurance industry, could have been the inspiration for “The C Word,” directed by O’Hara, the genesis of the film is far more personal.
O’Hara was 37 years old and on top of the world when she was diagnosed with aggressive, stage 3 breast cancer. “I was immediately aware of how much my life was going to change,” said O’Hara. “Nothing else that is going on, that you think is important, is as important anymore.”
The nature of O’Hara’s tumor and cancer meant that she needed to start treatment immediately. She recalled that time in her life, when everyone that she knew seemed to have a book on cancer that they wanted her to read. After one bad experience, she put them all on a shelf. But during a break between chemotherapy and radiation O’Hara picked up "Anticancer: A New Way of Life" by David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D. “It was a game changer,” said O’Hara.
The book, and the man who wrote it, would later become the focus of "The C Word." The film lays out the Four Pillars of Anticancer that Servan-Schreiber discussed in the book: nutrition, exercise, stress management and avoidance of toxins. The pillars exist as tools to help develop a science-based, anticancer body, as Servan-Schreiber said in the film.
Servan-Schreiber discovered his cancer by accident. A trained neuroscientist, he got into an MRI machine when a subject failed to show up, and the results showed a tumor in his brain. He was 31 years old. Servan-Schreiber underwent conventional therapy to treat his disease, but wanted to learn more. “Nobody ever told me there was anything I could do,” he said in the documentary, which he filmed prior to his death in 2011 due to recurrence of disease.
“In the public world, even in conversations I would have with doctors, nobody ever talks about how cancer works, why some people get it, what feeds it and what you can do to avoid it,” O’Hara said. According to Servan-Schreiber, there certain lifestyle changes that all people can make to help their body better resist cancer, or, if they already have the disease, help in the fight against it. For example, eating more vegetables and less sugar, focusing on stress reduction and strengthening friendships, as well as staying physically active.

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