I hesitated, staring blankly at the TV screen, wondering…do I really want to watch this movie right now? I was about to go on the treadmill for what I hoped would be a good 5 mile run, and I really didn’t want to watch a sad movie. Was this movie even sad? I wasn’t sure, but I clicked “buy now” and started running.
50/50 tells the story of Adam Lerner, an endearing young public radio producer (with a winsome smile.) At 27 years old, Adam is diagnosed with spinal cancer. Although the movie covers an obviously serious subject, the comic relief is hilarious, and perfectly timed. In my opinion, the movie’s main focus is on relationships, and is so well acted that there are times when, through mere facial expressions, you “get it.” You understand what remains unsaid. This is especially true if you have had personal experience with the familiar battle that cancer has thrown so many of us into. What I liked most as I watched his story was how my mind became flooded with memories and feelings that I hadn’t thought about or felt in a long time. The feelings that had softened with the passage of time. The memories that humble me as I trek my own journey through this life.
My father lost his courageous battle with cancer in October 2010. I am grateful for many of the moments that my family and friends shared as we traveled that arduous road together. Using 50/50 as my inspiration, I would like to share some lessons I learned during the months of his illness.
Lesson #1: Not everyone can “jump right in” to a given situation and be fine with it. Patience and understanding are essential so that we may help others adjust to what is happening. There is a scene in the move in which Adam is talking with his girlfriend Rachel. She tells him she does not want to go into the hospital because she doesn’t want to mix the “negative” hospital atmosphere with the “positive” atmosphere present in her life. “It’s an energy thing.” she states. I bet that many moviegoers were upset with her at this moment. I thought about it for a while after she said it, and concluded that she wasn’t crazy for thinking that way. I felt the same way during the early days of my father’s illness. I remember walking into the hospital for one of the first “post diagnosis” doctor visits with my dad. I was thinking…”Here we go. My life will be forever altered starting now…no matter how this thing turns out…and guess what, I’m not ready!” So for everyone who was upset with Rachel in that scene, I understand, but beg to differ.
Lesson #2: Listening is important. It is never just about “you.” That “you” includes the patient as well. Adam’s relationship with his mother is strained. Communication is difficult, and many things remain unsaid. I learned that everyone matters and everyone feels… so everyone hurts. My family and friends needed to talk to each other, and we needed both to listen and be heard. Yes, love triumphs over all between Adam and his mother, but I won’t give away what happens.
Lesson #3: One good friend is all you really need. (family aside) Nobody is perfect, but in his or her own way, that friend is walking the road with you as best he can. You can accept your own fate, but you cannot accept your fate for a friend. That is something a friend needs to do on his own… and man…it’s not easy.
Lesson #4: Out of the bad always comes some good. During difficult times like Adam’s, we meet new people, who may even become permanent parts of our lives. The truth is that even if they don’t, and you never see those people again after your experience together…they have left an indelible mark on your heart forever. Believe it.
Lesson #5: This life does not last forever. Yes, we stare our mortality right in the face. I learned that death is not something to be feared. I am not afraid to die.
These lessons may not ring true for everyone, as I can only speak from personal experience. The days, weeks, and months spent in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices that accompany the diagnosis of any illness are difficult for everyone affected; the patient, the family, the best friend. The world looks completely different through the eyes of a family battling disease. Our experiences can teach us during this time if we choose to be open to learning.
Nicely done 50/50…and thanks for the memories.
P.S. The greatest thing about this post is that I did not know the movie was based on a true story when it wrote it. That just makes the movie even better.