July 30th, 2014
| Survivor: Breast Cancer
Are you caught up with "Chasing Life" on ABC Family? See what these four cancer survivors have to say about Season 1 Episode 8, "Death Becomes Her."
The eighth episode of "Chasing Life" touches on the complicated issue death – whether your own or the death of a close friend. The show exposes the many ways to dealing with death: accept it, fear it, fight it, or be saddened by it.
Everywhere April turns it seems as though she is dealing with death in some way. Not only is her new friend Jackson from the support group dying, but April is also dreaming about death – both her own and those around her. After April visits Jackson in the hospital, she gets a new appreciation for life. With her treatment starting soon, she wants to go out and live before she is bed ridden for a month.
Having never taken a sick day before, April spontaneously decides that it was time for one. She leaves work and meets up with her friends from the support group. While the group is out, April sees a side of Leo that she never knew existed – a fun, caring man who would do anything for his friends (including fulfilling any final wishes they may have before they die). The whole day is full of surprises for Leo's friends and one of them includes the news that Leo was the anonymous donor who paid for April's fertility treatment.
April also learns that everyone has a different take on their own life. Although she is not okay with the thought of dying, she realizes that some of her friends are. Leo reveals that there is a surgery that could potentially remove the tumor on his brain but the possible side effects of the surgery are ones he would never want to live with. He would rather live out his remaining time on Earth on his own terms and under his own control rather than risk becoming brain dead from the surgery. April sees this as giving up and is angered by his decision, which only fuels her more and makes her more determined to fight her cancer.
We asked four cancer survivors to weigh in on the events of this week's episode to see how they relate.
Last night's episode of "Chasing Life" forced April to confront the possibility of death by cancer and her own mortality. While fellow patient Jackson prepared for death and April grew closer to terminally ill Leo, the characters used interesting language to describe their cancer experiences.
At his "living" funeral, Jackson talks about "winning" and "losing" the cancer battle, describing his own death as a loss. Some people are sensitive to this kind of language, because it suggests those who die as a result of cancer have failed in some way. But Jackson also says something wonderful to the room full of fellow patients at his funeral - he says he chose an amazing group of people to fight this battle alongside him.
Later in the episode, April grows angry with Leo when she learns that he has chosen not to have a surgery that could potentially extend his life. She accuses him of quitting, of giving up. To her facing cancer is still black and white. You fight or you die. You win or you lose.
But like Jackson, Leo realizes that facing a cancer diagnosis is not as simple as winning and losing, it's about the choices you make along the way and how you choose to live with your disease. No matter how Jackson's cancer journey ends, his life is valuable because of the affect he had on those around him and the impact they had on him. Leo has chosen to help the people he cares about as much as he can in the short time he may have left, and that choice gives his life incredible value, no matter how long it lasts.
April should respect Leo's choice to forgo treatment just as she has asked her family and friends to respect her choice to delay treatment so she can freeze her eggs. Life is not so simple as winning vs. losing, and cancer is no exception.
Melissa: 28, Acute Myeloid Leukemia Survivor
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This week's episode was a little difficult to watch. The way they handled the talk of death was not necessarily what I would have chosen. While some parts were touching, it felt awkward and sends the wrong message to those watching who haven't experienced cancer or a life threatening illness. It was nice to see April with a community of young adult patients and survivors. Though these communities exist, I personally have never been a part of such a close one and would love to have been. I have, however, experienced the loss of friends I made through my diagnosis and that is something really hard to even put into words.
April's new doctor wasn't believable to me at all. The most relatable moment for me this week was when April talked about never taking a sick day. It was nice to see her taking a break. Prior to getting Leukemia, I had never missed a day of school or work. Then I took a sick year. Because I was a freelancer, I didn't have a job to go back to when I was done with treatment. I now understand the importance of taking better care of myself.
Nick: 21, Stage 1 Testicular Cancer Survivor
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It would have been nice to see April start her fertility treatment in last night's episode so she can start with her cancer treatment right away. I get worked up as time continues to pass and nothing has been done to help cure her of cancer.
This episode had a very strong emotional appeal as the common theme throughout was death. I can't necessarily say that I can relate to the experiences April is going through with her friends around her dying. Nor has a friend of mine been diagnosed with cancer. But what I can relate to, are the personal thoughts of personal death that April is experiencing. Even though I was lucky enough to catch my cancer extremely early, the thought of death still raced through my head. I was 18 and very uneducated when it came to my own cancer diagnosis. As a kid you think of cancer as a death sentence, everyone you knew had cancer died or was still struggling to stay alive. So hearing those words "You have cancer" scared the hell out of me, and clearly it frightened April as well.
The episode ends with April in attack mode ready to conquer her cancer. She does not want to be forced to accept her own death this early in her life and that really made me happy. I felt good with the episode ending the way it did even if April hasn't started treatment yet.
Marilyn: 48, Stage 3a Breast Cancer Survivor
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Jackson's funeral was awesome! Your funeral should be a celebration of your life and all the lives you have touched while you were here on earth. If you know you are going to die why not have your "funeral/life celebration" before you leave this world. Enjoy it and be surrounded by the people that love you.
My Dad passed away 10 days before my mastectomy last summer. It was such a comfort to me to see how many people loved my Dad. Yes, it was sad and hard but I was so blessed to be comforted by so many people and I know my Dad was singing along with us and watching over us as we celebrated his life.
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