Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recap: Young Adult Cancer Survivor Movie Night

This entry will also be published on Cancer Perspectives, the John Theurer Cancer Center Blog

At the Young Adult Cancer Survivor Movie Night, the question was raised: “How has cancer affected your social life?” A moment of silence followed, in which each of us reflected on just how cancer has changed us. For many young adult survivors, walking into a bar bald-headed and fatigued feels no less awkward than walking into a bar naked. 
Cancer is a party crasher. Yet here we were, a group of young adult survivors, hanging out, having fun. We’d spent the evening eating pizza, chatting, watching a movie. Thanks to the John Theurer Cancer Center,  the Young Survival Coalition of Northern NJ,, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Gilda’s Club Northern New Jersey, we had an opportunity to kick back and relax with others who were happy to be at an alcohol-free event, who didn’t mind when they turned the lights out at 9 p.m.   
Don’t get me wrong: many survivors refuse to be hindered by their diagnoses and are able to make crazy late nights happen.
But the wonderful support groups that sponsored the evening understand that even those who strive for a normal social life need these no-pressure, laid-back nights too. They understand that we need each other. We are different. We face issues like infertility, dating post cancer, long-term side effects, and the fear of death way too young.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with these issues is with laughter and camaraderie (and movie snacks). 50/50 is a funny movie. It’s even funnier when you can empathize with the lead character. I’d heard anecdotes of awkward audience moments during screenings of 50/50 at regular movie theatres, with general audiences. As in, “I better not laugh at this joke about cancer, or I’ll be insensitive,” or “How can they kid about chemo? Chemo is not funny. It’s scary and serious.”
During the Young Adult Survivor Movie Night, we laughed about cancer, and at cancer. Because that’s what we need. And we left the evening with new friendships, which will result in conversations NOT about cancer. Because that’s also what we need.