Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Telling the Family

The latest episode continued the saga of Kitty and her cancer. She was diagnosed with stage III NHL, given only two treatment options: R-CHOP and some other protocol in Boston, and sent home. Contrast to my experience, my cardiologist sent me immediately to the ER for an emergency CT scan before I even knew it was cancer. I had state IIb and my situation was so severe (not dire, just severe) that I stayed at the hospital for a full week before I eventually left to start chemo at NIH. Meanwhile, Kitty goes home and her family debates on whether she should have standard R-CHOP or some other protocol (I've never heard of it). She goes wedding dress shopping, has dinner with her family (where she eventually tells them all), and looks pretty good for someone who was just diagnosed.

I liked the way the writers handled the storyline for the most part, but there were a lot of things that irked me. I also felt that they made it political and part of the national health care debate with their discussion of the Boston clinical trial and how the FDA is so slow to approve new treatment and such. I was just annoyed because they tipped their hand as to their "agenda" when they could have focused on what a newly diagnosed person feels and goes through. Thankfully, they moved past that pretty quickly.

I wish the oncology doctor had also explained the treatment options a little better. I understand it's tv but her explanation felt really rushed and short. She also said there were only two options and it's not true. EPOCH is highly regarded in the National Cancer Institute as an effective treatment over R-CHOP. The success rates have been very good (and I'm proof!) There are other treatments out there so they could have just said that and then said the standard is R-CHOP. Another option is radiation and they didn't even mention it.

Let's see how they handle the rest of it. I am glad to see them try, but please be a little more realistic and educate the viewers. Unfortunately, a lot of people have experience with cancer and we will all be watching carefully.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kitty has NHL

I don't know if you follow "Brothers & Sisters," but the writers have "given" Kitty (played by Calista Flockhart) diffuse large b-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. My first thought was, "No!" It's too close to home. Mike looked at me like he thought the same thing. Seriously? Exactly my cancer. It's interesting to note that not only does Kitty have NHL, but Lynette on "Desperate Housewives" also had it a couple of seasons ago. I felt the same sucker-punch in the gut when Lynette was diagnosed. I know they are fictional characters, but it's like watching it happen to me all over again. All of the memories came rushing back.

I watched the story unfold and thought about it a bit more. October is breast cancer awareness month and as a NHL survivor, I always feel a little like my cancer and others are overlooked. I support all cancer research, but I feel just a teeny bit jealous of all the pink (even the NFL has gone pink). I hope Kitty's diagnosis will educate others about cancer - any kind of cancer. People who don't know what it's like, got to see first-hand Kitty getting a bone marrow biopsy to stage the cancer.

Out of curiosity, I checked the blogosphere earlier to see the reaction to the cancer diagnosis. Most people think it's to boost ratings (and it probably is), but at the same time I hope the show educates viewers. I was the most bothered by some bloggers who assume that the writers are trying to kill off Kitty with the cancer diagnosis. Yes, cancer is terrible and people die every day but it's not an automatic death sentence and I'm living proof. Again, I hope the writers educate people on what cancer patients deal with in fighting the terrible disease but also on how to live with a cancer diagnosis.

One final thought. I will be watching closely to see how they write it into the show. I didn't like how Kitty was told her diagnosis in the doctor's office and then sent home. I was sent to the ER for an emergency CT and was admitted overnight. I stayed in the hospital for a full week until I was supposed to start chemo (went to NIH instead). The doctors told me that large diffuse b-cell is a pretty agressive tumor and can grow quickly so they moved fairly rapidly to get me started on treatment. Things moved slowly on last night's show. I just ask that they be fairly realistic in how they portray it. I want to see Kitty lose her hair, puke her guts out, and lose her energy - that's the reality. Grey's Anatomy has done a fairly decent job with Izzie's brain cancer so I expect the same from these writers.