Four Cancer Survivors Review "Chasing Life" | Ep. 3

Have you tuned into the new ABC Series, "Chasing Life"? We asked cancer survivors to weigh in on the way the main character has navigated the cancer journey so far. Read more.

The third episode of "Chasing Life" touched upon some of the biggest issues that we feel surround the beginning stages of a cancer diagnosis - sharing the news, finding support and realizing the power of the cancer connection. In the previous episodes, the main character, April, was denying herself a support system out of fear, but this week she learned the value of surrounding herself with others who really understand what a cancer diagnosis means. Her newfound friendship with a fellow cancer fighter showed her that sharing your story and hearing the stories of others can help make people feel a little less alone.

Her initial rejection to the idea of a support group touched upon an important struggle for many - it's not easy to walk into a room full of a cancer patients and share your emotions. That's part of the reason we started IHadCancer - you can build connections from the comfort of your own home, be as anonymous as you want and ease into the cancer world as slowly or as quickly as you would like.

The episode ends on a sad, but important note. Upon the passing of April's first "cancer friend", Gerald, she gets very emotional even though she had only known him for a few days. The connection she felt so quickly with him and the strong emotions she felt is something many of us can relate to. We've met people who are only in our lives for a day, a week, etc., yet we have a strong connection with them. We get them, they get us. That's what the cancer community is all about.

So far we found this week's episode to be the most realistic and relateable to the young adult cancer community.

We asked four cancer survivors to weigh in on the events of this week's episode to see if they agree.

When I first heard about "Chasing Life", I was hesitant to even watch it. Most cancer survivors can relate to the show, but when I heard it was about a 24-year-old with leukemia, the commercials made me jump. I was 24 when I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The first episode left me with some doubts about its accuracy especially when April isn't tested before donating blood. Depending on what kind of leukemia she has, she may need to be hospitalized immediately and not leave for weeks. Though these details may not be important to the average viewer, it's important to me that the show is giving correct information.

On this week's episode, April deals with the question of when to tell someone she is dating that she has cancer. Many young adult patients struggle with this and the result can have a negative outcome so I understand why she would be concerned. However, when April bleeds while brushing her teeth, this is serious and in reality, she would need to go to the hospital. The idea that April can live with these symptoms for an extended period of time is frustrating and not believable to me.

April's friend's death from cancer seems to give her a dose of reality. The death of friends one has met through their diagnosis is something that young adult cancer survivors deal with all too often and one of the only parts of the episode that I found relatable.

I wish that there had been more weight given to the support group she attends and not just a few seconds during the credits. Maybe next week.

In this episode, April's condition seems to have worsened. We still don't know much about her prognosis, but within the first few minutes she's already spitting up blood.

As the stakes seem higher than ever, April's friends give her a gift that is crucial in fighting cancer: permission to be selfish. Her best friend, Beth, is the first to make this suggestion, reminding April to take care of her own needs before others during this challenging time. Next, Gerald supports her choice to share her cancer diagnosis with whomever she wants, whenever she wants.

And yet, we're reminded that April's cancer diagnosis is not just happening to her. We get to know her family better and watch as her romantic relationship grows. Even though April has not shared her diagnosis with her family or her boyfriend, it's happening to them, too.

In an airplane emergency, passengers are always advised to secure their oxygen mask before helping others. If you can't breathe, you can't help others. And yet, Gerald's most valuable lesson to April inverts that idea: Helping others helps him heal.

I would like to see April start putting her health first so that she can survive to care for the people around her, but I would also like to see her continue to connect with other cancer survivors to see if she can help them. After her immediate, medical healing, I believe serving others could aid April's emotional healing as she tries to "Forgive the cancer."

Nick: 21, Stage 1 Testicular Cancer Survivor
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The most important part of this episode was the light that it shed on April's relationship with a fellow cancer fighter, Gerald. I was glad to see that she opened up to him and that she listened to the important advice that he shared with her. He told her that it was okay that she has yet to tell her family, but encouraged her to not keep it a complete secret and to consider joining a support group.

I could relate to her instinct to initially reject the idea of a support group, as I never really felt comfortable walking into a room full of cancer patients to talk about my diagnosis either. However, I knew it was important to not cut myself off from resources that could be of help to me in the future.

Although April decided to move forward with joining a support group by the end of the episode, I appreciated that the show included a little bit of hesitation and found that to be a realistic addition. It seems like April is slowly taking the right steps towards battling her cancer, and I am excited for what next week's episode has in store.

Marilyn: 48, Stage 3a Breast Cancer Survivor
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When you find out you have cancer you immediately want to know "why me". We want an explanation of why this is happening to us. I believe that everything happens for a reason, we may not find out that reason right away, but there is a reason.

This same idea was evident in one of April's conversations with Gerald. He told her that he had to forgive cancer, because if he hadn't gotten cancer he would not have created the carrot juice. No, the carrot juice didn't help him in a medical way, but it helped him deal with having cancer and it helped him help others.

I like that Gerald tells her join a support group. My family and friends were a HUGE support system for me and I wouldn't have made it through this journey without them. But when I talk to someone that has gone through what I have, there is a connection. They get it, they understand without you having to explain to them why you are feeling a certain way or why something bothers you when most people think it shouldn't bother you. A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer about six months before I was, she was a great resource for me, even if it was just to vent my feelings.

What are your thoughts on the series so far?