Doctor, What Should I Do?
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
Web Exclusive: Corporations Unite Against Cancer
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Web Exclusive: What Parents Can Do
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Web Exclusive: A Lion in the House
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
Multiple Myeloma & Leukemia
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Coping
September 27, 2006 – Christopher Schultz
Legal Rights as a Survivor
September 27, 2006
Bookshelf
September 27, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
House Call
September 27, 2006 – Aman Buzdar
Mitigating Litigation
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer with a Known Cause
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cure Becomes Less Risky
September 27, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Classifying & Clarifying MDS
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
When the Choice Is Not Cure
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
The Scoring System
September 27, 2006
Do Women Under 50 Need Mammograms?
September 27, 2006 – Beverly A. Caley
Watch It or Treat It?
September 27, 2006 – Beverly A. Caley
Sisterhood
September 27, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Creating a Dragon Boat Team
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Arms in Motion
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Job-Searching Hints for Survivors
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Working Through Caregiver Grief
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Fatal Fibers
September 27, 2006 – Katy Human
People & Places
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Back in Action After DCIS
September 27, 2006 – Nancy Reuben Greenfield
Getting the Care You Deserve
September 27, 2006 – Stacy Beller Stryer
Treatment Boost for MDS
September 27, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Power to the Patient
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
In Situ Breast Cancer: Is It Really Cancer?
September 27, 2006 – Beverly A. Caley
The Shadow Survivors
September 27, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Taming the Dragon
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
The Choice to Work
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Waste of Taste
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A Cunning Predator
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Lessons Learned
September 27, 2006 – Cole A. Giller, MD PhD
Letters from Our Readers
September 27, 2006
A Worry-Free Way to Support Nonprofits?
September 27, 2006 – Emma Johnson
Message from the Editor
September 27, 2006
Doctor, What Should I Do?
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
Web Exclusive: Corporations Unite Against Cancer
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Web Exclusive: What Parents Can Do
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Currently Viewing
Web Exclusive: A Lion in the House
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
Coping
September 27, 2006 – Christopher Schultz
Legal Rights as a Survivor
September 27, 2006
Bookshelf
September 27, 2006 – Kathy LaTour
House Call
September 27, 2006 – Aman Buzdar
Mitigating Litigation
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer with a Known Cause
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cure Becomes Less Risky
September 27, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Classifying & Clarifying MDS
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
When the Choice Is Not Cure
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
The Scoring System
September 27, 2006
Do Women Under 50 Need Mammograms?
September 27, 2006 – Beverly A. Caley
Watch It or Treat It?
September 27, 2006 – Beverly A. Caley
Sisterhood
September 27, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Creating a Dragon Boat Team
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Arms in Motion
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Job-Searching Hints for Survivors
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Working Through Caregiver Grief
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Fatal Fibers
September 27, 2006 – Katy Human
People & Places
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
Back in Action After DCIS
September 27, 2006 – Nancy Reuben Greenfield
Getting the Care You Deserve
September 27, 2006 – Stacy Beller Stryer
Treatment Boost for MDS
September 27, 2006 – Alice McCarthy
Power to the Patient
September 27, 2006 – Marc Silver
In Situ Breast Cancer: Is It Really Cancer?
September 27, 2006 – Beverly A. Caley
The Shadow Survivors
September 27, 2006 – Jo Cavallo
Taming the Dragon
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
The Choice to Work
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Waste of Taste
September 27, 2006 – Elizabeth Whittington
A Cunning Predator
September 27, 2006 – Katy Human
Lessons Learned
September 27, 2006 – Cole A. Giller, MD PhD
Letters from Our Readers
September 27, 2006
A Worry-Free Way to Support Nonprofits?
September 27, 2006 – Emma Johnson
Message from the Editor
September 27, 2006

Web Exclusive: A Lion in the House

A documentary film about kids with cancer and their families. 

BY Marc Silver
PUBLISHED September 27, 2006

“How could you stand to watch that movie? Isn’t it about kids with cancer?”

That’s what a friend said when I told her I’d previewed A Lion in the House, a four-hour documentary that is indeed about kids with cancer. They are the “lions” of the enigmatic title, which is taken from a quote by the writer Isak Dinesen: “You know you are truly alive when you are living among lions.”

I understand my friend’s sentiments. But it is because of the children—who are totally and truly alive even as they struggle to survive—that I kept watching. The kids cope with scary words, needle pokes, harsh chemicals and debilitating side effects no youngster should have to face. Yet they refuse to give up the right to be a child, and their youthful exuberance is a delight. Free-spirited 15-year-old Tim tries to trick the docs into thinking he’s gaining weight to stay strong. Spunky 7-year-old Alex, voted “cutest personality” at cancer camp, solemnly proclaims she had no idea she had a cute personality—and that makes her seem even cuter.

Lion, which airs on PBS June 21 and 22, owes its existence to Robert Arceci, MD, former chief oncologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Inspired by the basketball documentary Hoop Dreams, he asked filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar to consider the topic of childhood cancer. It was a subject they knew only too well. Their daughter was diagnosed with cancer as a teenager (she is now in good health). Reichert and Bognar spent six years on the project. The Cincinnati hospital, where the kids were treated, and the families themselves allowed access to moments of the utmost intimacy: from a brain biopsy to a family meeting about whether it’s time to face the inevitability of a son’s death.

Regina, the single mom of 11-year-old Al, compares the cancer experience to being “wrung out [in] a washing machine,” and that’s how it feels to watch Lion. The ups and downs are never ending: remission, return, experimental treatments that succeed, experimental treatments that fail, a glorious day at an amusement park, a dark night in the ICU. The movie is often heartbreaking; not all of the kids survive. Yet it is enriched by their spirit and humor. Even young Al cracks wise about hospital red tape, “You gotta have a prescription to get some tissues.”

“One of the huge lessons from cancer,” says Reichert, “is learning how to live with vast uncertainty. It completely shakes you out of your complacency.” She herself was shaken to her core on Jan. 20, when she and Bognar arrived in Utah for the premiere of Lion at the Sundance film festival. That same day, her doctor called to say that symptoms of fatigue, chest pains and a constant cough were caused by a cancerous tumor wrapped around her heart. Reichert is now being treated for her rare strain of lymphoma, trying to live up to the lion-hearted example of the families she met in Lion.

For more on A Lion in the House, visit www.pbs.org/independentlens/lioninthehouse

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