By Amy Chmielewski
As I sat in the theater waiting for the movie 50/50 to begin, my thoughts and emotions were running rapidly. Nervousness, excitement, joyfulness, and sadness passed through me as I wondered how the film would portray a young adult with cancer.
When the lights dimmed and the film started to roll, I quickly realized the lasting impact that this film was going to have on the young adult cancer community — a community that I am proud to be a part of. Not only did I watch aspects of my own cancer journey in the film, but I also saw situations that young adults with cancer experience on a daily basis.
When I reflect on the uniqueness of being a young adult, I think of a time when people are finding their identities and building a life for themselves: going to college, transitioning to a career, building lifelong relationships, dating, getting married, buying a home, and having children. Imagine a cancer diagnosis happening during this time, especially when young people are looking towards the bright futures ahead of them.
When I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 18 in February 2005, I was at a point in my life where I was looking toward my own future. I was living the life of a student, in my second semester of college, pursuing my career, and making new friends.
My diagnosis was unexpected and my entire life changed the day that I found out that I had cancer. I was immediately thrown into a new routine of doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy treatments, scans, and blood tests.
I have been cancer-free since Nov. 21, 2005 and have embraced my survivorship by becoming more active in the young adult cancer community, sharing my story, loving those around me and living my life to the fullest.
From diagnosis through the remainder of a cancer journey, many issues can impact young adults. Some of these issues include the shock of the cancer diagnosis and disruption in our lives, reactions of those around us, adjusting to the “new normal,” and enduring rigorous medical treatments. These issues are all portrayed in 50/50, as well as in the lives of many young adults with cancer.
The entire movie really touched my heart, but there are a few parts in particular that stood out to me. The young man played by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt tried to maintain as much of his life as possible during treatment by hanging out with his best friend, played by actor Seth Rogen. While watching the scenes of Gordon-Levitt and Rogen together, I felt the heartbreak that young adults can experience when they are trying to live their life like it was before cancer, but are unable to because they are adjusting to their “new normal.”
I, like Gordon-Levitt’s character, also tried to keep my life as normal as possible while going through cancer, but lost a great deal of my support system as my journey went on. Fortunately, I was able to find a support system of young adults with cancer through an organization called The Gathering Place, a community-based cancer support center for individuals touched by cancer in Cleveland. The people that I have met through The Gathering Place, as well as the free programs and services they offer to young adults facing cancer, have changed my life in so many ways. I encourage you to see the movie 50/50 and find out more information about cancer in young adults.
Tell us: Have you seen 50/50? If so, what did you think of it?
Guest blogger Amy Chmielewski is a second-year graduate student at Case Western Reserve University working on her Master’s degrees in social work and bioethics. She serves on the Patient Services Committee for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and volunteers at The Gathering Place, a community-based cancer support center in Cleveland that offers free programs and services to those touched by cancer including a lending library, counseling, nutrition, and exercise classes, workshops, and programs for children and families. She is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book. She plans to pursue a career in oncology social work, as her cancer journey has inspired her to work with individuals and families facing cancer.