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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pink Ribbon Inc & 50/50 -- cancer films for a new generation

So I'm sure we are all familiar with the very emotional and sentimental films featuring stoic women (and usually they are women although sometimes, as in Brian's Song, they are men). Love Story and Terms of Endearment top the list of these sorts of films.

Well, Pink Ribbon Inc. and 50/50 do not seem to fit into that mold.

Neither of these films is out, just yet. But my friend Anita sent me the trailer to Pink Ribbons Inc. and I am very excited to see this film when it comes out (hopefully in early 2012, although I may spring for the DVD which you can buy on their website). The Canadian filmmakers who produced this film were inspired by Samantha King's book of the same name--the film, like the book, seems to take a critical look at the pink ribbon industry that has been built up over the last decade--the many different consumer items that are branded with the pink ribbon and sold in the name of research and finding a cure. Which makes it feel like you are making a profit off of a disease--at least it makes me feel that way sometimes depending on my mood. I still see those pink ribbons everywhere--most recently on a box of Morton's Salt that I bought at my local grocery store. There were two boxes of salt sold for the same price, one had a pink ribbon and the other didn't. Not sure why--wouldn't it seem as if the box with the pink ribbon should be more expensive because if Morton's is giving money for breast cancer research it would want people buying the pink ribbon salt to pay a nickel more to help women with breast cancer?

I know I've written about King's book and my own reaction to Pink Ribbon commercialization before (click here). I hope this film reaches a lot of people--certainly more people would watch this film than would pick up King's book, so I'm glad in that way that her message and the critique of the corporatization of the pink ribbon will get the audience it deserves--and hopefully will get people thinking about what they are buying when they make a conscious choice to purchase a pink ribbon item.

As for the film 50/50, I saw the trailer in the movie theater recently and became VERY EXCITED because this seems to be a film geared towards the average person who either has had a cancer diagnosis and/or their friends and family--and we all just are overwhelmed and clueless about how to proceed. Today one of the stars and writer/producer's of the film, Seth Rogen, along with his friend and co-writer and inspiration for the film, Will Reiser, were on Weekend Edition Sunday talking about making the film and about Reiser's own cancer diagnosis (which the film is loosely based upon). Listening to them talk about making the film was refreshing. Because the truth is, when you have this diagnosis, when you are living with cancer and going through treatment, there are so MANY THINGS THAT SEEM ABSURD. And you or at least I couldn't dwell on the tragedy of it all and had to see the comedy or the absurdity in my situation. And being able to laugh is a great therapy in and of itself. As is anger, I think--which is why I titled the blog No Fucking Pink Ribbons.

Anyway, I leave you with trailers for both films--50/50 will open on September 30 and I hope Pink Ribbons Inc. comes to my local independent theater--if not, I'm definitely springing for the film, because I know it is a must watch for me.


[click here for an LA Times review of the film]


Friday, September 2, 2011


Let me tell you about my Aunt Teri. When I was growing up, I had 2 Aunts named Teresa--with different middle names. So as a way to distinguish them, I called the youngest one, Shaoliang, which my father said meant "little aunt" in Mandarin. It, apparently, also sounds close to "little sheep" and so I used to draw a picture of a little sheep when I would write letters to her.

My Aunt Teri was one of those people who created community wherever she lived--and she and my Uncle moved around to various places throughout their lives. But she really had a knack of cultivating friendships of a breadth and depth that is unusual--in other words, she has both a very large and intimate circle of friends from every place she has ever lived.

When I recently confessed to her that I was nervous at the thought of being a parent (Matthew and I are looking into adoption--which will be the subject of a future post, I'm sure--what it's like to be a breast cancer survivor going through the domestic adoption process) and when I asked her whether she had ever been nervous, she told me that she had always known that she wanted to be a mother--that it was one of the things she was most proud of--and that she knew that it was what she was meant to do--be a Mom--be someone who could give unconditional love to children.

My Aunt Teri was a stubborn person--a trait common on both sides of my family. She had stores of compassion but also stores of stuborness--she was not a pushover but could assert herself in a caring yet forceful way. There were times when she would not take no for an answer. She knew how to fight for what she wanted--for what she felt was right--for what was important.

This morning my Aunt Teri passed away after complications due to her marrow transplant, which was a result of being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in February 2010 (2 months before my own breast cancer diagnosis). I got the call right before my 10am class--and I had to shut the door on my emotions in order to get through class (something I've learned to be good at--compartementalizing that is, because I got the news about my cancer diagnosis half an hour before a grad seminar a year and a half ago). Although I've teared up throughout the day--and gotten choked up--I haven't yet had a proper cry. As I told one cousin, I feel emotionally constipated--I can feel something sitting inside my chest, wanting to be let out. And I trust that when the moment is right, my emotions will come spilling out.

When I got my breast cancer diagnosis, my aunt was one of the first people to call and reach out to me. She shared helpful hints and suggestions about going through chemo and things to eat. We talked about our similar experiences--and the differences in our cancer treatment and care. We were connected in this intimate manner, which I know is something neither of us wanted to have happen. This is the fourth relative I've had die of cancer--the first on my father's side. It all feels surreal--the number of family I've had who have died of various cancers.

My Aunt Teri was one of my favorite people. She was someone I confided in and trusted. She is someone I love wholeheartedly and who will always live in my heart. And I will always miss her. Always.

[a picture of Teri and me when I was a very young youngster and she was in the prime of her youth]