Does cancer equal love?


Jennifer Nassar

CURE's editor-at-large Kathy LaTour and I met up cancer survivors Diana DeVoe and Debbie Fitzer in Dallas to see "The Fault in Our Stars," based on the book by John Green. Diana, 44, received a diagnosis of alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma at 18 in 1988. Debbie, 53, received a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer about nine years ago at 44.Diana's story was featured in the Fall 2012 issue of CURE. You can read more here.During the movie, we laughed, and cried and cried. A word of advice for women: Don't wear eye make-up; you will leave the theater with raccoon eyes. Two hours and a few tissues later, we sat down for a causal discussion. During this, I noticed a very coincidental pattern that related Diana's story to the movie trailer.TRAILER: "This is the's appointments..."

DIANA: She spent her 19th birthday in surgery to have two fingers removed on her left hand. After surgery, she underwent radiation and two years of chemotherapy.

TRAILER: "And worst of all, support groups."

DIANA: There were no support groups at the time of her diagnosis. She wouldn't have attended if there were any. "I didn't talk about cancer," she says.

TRAILER: "I'm in love with you." "I'm a grenade."

DIANA: She often pushed people away. "I didn't get into relationships," she says.

TRAILER: "We are a hot mess." (making love scene when Hazel struggles with her cannula )

DIANA: Being intimate was very hard for her when she wore a wig. "I would have to take it off, and then turn off the lights," she says.While we agreed it was a beautiful story, the cancer portrayal wasn't convincing. "They didn't seem sick," Debbie says. "She (Hazel) looked way too healthy.""When I heard that (thyroid cancer), I thought she would be pale, thin and incredibly frail," she says.When Augustus' cancer, osteosarcoma, returned and spread just about everywhere, he still looked like his "handsome" self, we all agreed.There was one side effect to Augustus' chemotherapy that was very realistic to Diana.WARNING: Spoiler alert, okay?

Augustus alerts Hazel to meet him at a gas station where he is parked. She gets there to find him crying and that he has a serious infection from chemo. "That was gut-wrenching for me," says Diana, who once had an infection from chemo with a temperature of 105 and was hospitalized.Debbie saw a relation to the financial struggles that can come with cancer. After a star-struck Hazel receives an email from her favorite author, she approaches her mom about taking a trip to Amsterdam to meet him. Her response, "We don't have the money."Debbie blamed financial stress for her cancer after she received a diagnosis. "I would constantly ask myself 'Can I work?', 'Can I pay my bills?'" she says.Diana and Debbie both agreed the discussion of cancer and death in the movie is a reflection of how more "comfortable" society is in acknowledging cancer.When Debbie was little, her grandmother died from breast cancer. She said she didn't see much of how her grandmother's cancer affected her family because no one talked about it."Back then, parents didn't want kids around cancer," she says. "But today, we're more open."One subject all of us kept going back to was love. Kathy thought the love "was too good to be true." Yes, the love in the movie is "amazing." But can we expect every movie about a cancer patient to be included in a love story? Is this becoming to cliché in the storytelling industry? My question to you: Is it right to use cancer to enhance a love story?Jennifer Nassar is a graduate student at the University of North Texas. She is a summer intern for CURE magazine.

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