Reel-Life Cancer

Heal, Spring 2008, Volume 2, Issue 1

Survivors share their experiences on film, via internet

Prepare to Live, an organization created by cancer survivors Eran Thomson and Eszter Rabin, utilizes the Internet and documentary-style filmmaking to reach out to young adults with cancer. The website (www.preparetolive.org) includes a 10-minute documentary film trailer featuring four cancer survivors, ranging from a one-year leukemia survivor to a sarcoma survivor diagnosed in 1978 at age 19, describing how they coped mentally and emotionally, and how they researched their disease and treatment options, noting what resources they wish they had had at the time of diagnosis.

Rabin, a seven-year survivor of stage 3 breast cancer, says Prepare to Live is an important resource because it offers information she would have liked to have seen at the time of her diagnosis. “It would have been so helpful to watch this and see what other people at my age did, and what was possible.”

Prepare to Live also has an ongoing “Cancer Is/Isn’t” short-film festival. These films, all three minutes or less, offer an outlet for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers — anyone — to submit their own cancer film and share it with others. You can also use the “Buddy Search” and “Patient Profile” tools to connect with peers and others who are subjects of the Prepare to Live films.

Rabin and Thomson say Prepare to Live will ultimately produce two types of documentary-style feature films every few years that provide information, inspiration and insight from firsthand experiences.

The films, Prepare to Live for patients and survivors and Prepare to Care for caregivers, will include footage of each subject’s doctors, nurses, friends, family and caregivers, who share their perspectives and tips. Prepare to Live has completed shooting most of the footage for its first two feature-length films, but with funding coming solely from pharmaceutical and professional sponsors as well as individual donations, progress is gradual. Once completed, Prepare to Live plans to make the films available for free at multiple locations, including a version that can be downloaded from its website.

“Stories of exceptional human achievement may be the stuff of Hollywood,” says the website, “but the heroism in these films is real, and while they may be entertaining, their true purpose is to serve as an invaluable medical resource that will improve, inspire and save people’s lives.”

Other personal movies about life with and after cancer are available for purchase online. Many of the films’ websites include a trailer, synopsis or reviews of the film:

>In The Closer She Gets ($14.99 at www.theclosershegets.com), a brain cancer patient’s son documents the family’s struggle with the disease.

>Chasing Rainbows: Young Adults Living With Cancer ($10 at www.chasingrainbowsproduction.com) is a documentary film about six young adults “living life while fighting for it.”

>A Lion in the House ($29.95 at www.lioninthehouse.com) follows five racially and economically diverse families of children with cancer.

>In the comedy Jonna’s Body: Please Hold ($20 at www.jonnasbodymovie.com) a sassy receptionist fields calls from Jonna’s quirky body parts during cancer treatment.

>An animation/live documentary on prostate cancer, The Men’s Club ($19.95 at www.themensclub.us), includes 32 men and women plus nine doctors and focuses on seven treatments.

Cancer information on the Internet isn’t just about researching the latest treatments. The Internet also has become a vehicle for cancer-related films, which provide information about the cancer experience from several points of view, including cancer survivors, their families and their caregivers.