July 23rd, 2014
| Survivor: Breast Cancer
Do you watch "Chasing Life" on ABC Family? We asked four cancer survivors to weigh in on Season 1 Episode 7, "Unplanned Parenthood." Read more.
The seventh episode of "Chasing Life" highlighted some serious concerns in the life of a young adult cancer patient: fertility, the cost of treatment and having to put your career on hold.
April assumed that her insurance would cover the cost of freezing her eggs, which left her feeling blindsided when the doctor told her otherwise. All of the sudden she was scrambling to find enough money in time, causing her to put treatment on hold for an additional ten days. As many AML fighters, survivors and supporters know, waiting any longer could have serious consequences.
On top of this, she still hasn't shared her diagnosis with her boyfriend. With the news that he may be leaving the country for four months, it seems likely that she will never tell him. Even though this plot twist could be seen as an "easy out", it also brings to light just how hard it can be to be honest with others - it's much more difficult than it seems. We also got a glimpse at the way her mother is handling the diagnosis, which brings up a very crucial reality - caregivers need support, too.
However, as April's personal life seems to be falling apart, her professional life seems to be coming together. With Leo's help, she gets key information for a breakthrough story, which leads to her first byline. This significant milestone in her career distracts her from the stresses of her diagnosis, and also seems to give her the confidence she needed. She was able to tell her boss that she needs time off for medical reasons, although she did not say exactly why. As viewers, we all hope that Lawrence's caring and thoughtful response to her request causes April to realize that she may feel a lot better when everything is out in the open.
We asked four cancer survivors to weigh in on the events of this week's episode to see how they relate.
Nick: 21, Stage 1 Testicular Cancer Survivor
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I know I keep saying April needs to start treatment but her reason for delaying this time is a legitimate one. I believe she should have the option to save her eggs before she starts chemo. Even though I am a guy, I can totally relate to wanting to take preventative measures to ensure your ability to have kids later in life/after treatment. A side effect the Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection (RPLND) that I underwent was that my ejaculatory nerves and functions could become damaged. As a precaution, I decided to have my semen stored so that I could still have kids later in life. At 18 years old, I never expected that I would have to deal with storing my semen to avoid not being able to have kids years down the line. As soon as I was told, thoughts raced through my head and the reality of how this could affect my future hit me hard. I think April went through the same thing.
At some points, "Chasing Life" doesn't seem realistic but at other times it does. For example, the convenience of April's boyfriend leaving for four months seems a little bit farfetched. However, when April hints to her boss that she may need to be taking time off due to medical reasons, his response is truly genuine. I think April will now feel more comfortable telling him about her situation. But as weekly viewers of the show know, things in Chasing Life aren't always as predictable as we think they will be.
Rose: 28, Stage 4 Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma Survivor
The latest episode of "Chasing Life" continued to carry a theme that has been emphasized throughout the series thus far - "To be, or not to be - honest." Early in the episode April attends her support group and fellow survivor Leo suggests she be open and honest about her diagnosis. "You'll feel better when it's out in the open," he says.
April follows this advice in some ways, but doesn't in others. She takes the crucial step of letting her employer know that she is going through a medical challenge and will need time off. Her mother is also seen being very honest about her experience having a daughter with cancer at a caregiver's mixer. On the other hand, April chooses not to tell Dominic about her illness, causing what I believe was a collective groan by viewers around the world.
In the first few days that I was diagnosed, I made a very conscious decision to be open about my illness. It was not a decision I took lightly, and it is a choice every cancer survivor should make for themselves. Personally, I have never regretted my actions. Like generations before us who obsessed with "Keeping up with the Joneses," today's young adults often focus on putting the best version of their lives on display - largely through social media. It seems like every Instagram post is a sexy selfie and each Facebook update is someone announcing their job promotion. But when I was diagnosed I started sharing the honest, and often ugly, story of my cancer struggle. Soon, I found others who could relate to my experience, and I was no longer alone. As Leo says, I felt better struggling openly with the support of others rather than alone behind closed doors.
But besides being honest about her diagnosis, this episode also shows April being honest about her needs when she chooses not to tell Dominic. My initial reaction was to be frustrated with April, but upon reflection I think this was her way of choosing to fight cancer without him. She was admitting that she did not need him, and maybe did not want him, by her side through this struggle. I commend her for that. Like the attendees at the Caregiver's Mixer, she should feel empowered to be honest about what she needs and put those needs first.
And of course, this sets things up nicely for a steamy romance with Leo...
Marilyn: 48, Stage 3a Breast Cancer Survivor
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April definitely needs to start thinking about herself and stop worrying about how everyone else is going to feel. As the mother of three girls, I always worried about how my cancer was going to affect them. Leo has a point when he said something along the lines of, "you have to be selfish when you have cancer".
I LOVE that April's Uncle George is trying so hard to help out the family. I know there is more to this part if the story and I can't wait to find out.
Melissa: 28, Acute Myeloid Leukemia Survivor
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It was interesting when they showed April at the fertility doctor this week. The episode addressed something most people probably don't think about. It was important that they mentioned insurance doesn't cover her freezing her eggs. However, I am just not sure if April could put off treatment another ten days since AML requires immediate treatment. I could relate to the doctor saying in disbelief, "you're so young". I often got that response from medical professionals, which was always frustrating.
It was good to see that April's mother tried getting some much needed support even though it didn't turn out the way she expected. I was also very happy to see that April finally mentioned to her boss that she needs time off. I don't think April realizes quite yet how chemotherapy is going to affect her.
What are your thoughts on ABC Family's new series, "Chasing Life," so far?
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