When I found out they were going to do a story line where one of the women gets breast cancer, my heart sank. I live breast cancer every day, and don't really want to see it in my entertainment, much less one of my favorite shows. TV is one way I escape my reality.
Although, if one of the guys from the Deadliest Catch got it, I might feel differently. Can't you just see Captain Keith deal with a mastectomy?
The entertainment industry has an atrocious record for truth-telling when it comes to cancer treatment. On TV and in the movies, all chemo patients puke, they all look continually miserable, they lose their hair but not their lashes or brows, they never have mastectomies, they get huge circles under their eyes, get skinny, and generally look very bad.
The exception was Samantha in Sex and the City, where reality was bent too far towards the other end of the bell curve - she wore a different fabulous wig to every party and had great sex with a hot young stud while on chemo.
Both can happen - miserable puking or hot young sex - but the truth for nearly everybody lies somewhere in the middle.
Nobody on TV demonstrates the real side effects that make us miserable, like constipation and a constantly runny nose. And, that's a shame because all the Kleenex and Miralax I use would make for fantastic product placement.
Back to Parenthood: I know that Maura Tierney was supposed to be on the show and had to back out because she was diagnosed with breast cancer - the same kind I have, HER2+. She has been public about the fact that chemo is not portrayed realistically on TV. So, I had hopes the people involved in that show knew her and had some sort of investment in showing the truth, or at least, the common truth, which is that chemo is hard but it's worse to think about then do. Most go to work, manage their family obligations, and incorporate going to chemo into their lives.
Chemo (at least, early on) is really an anti-climax, although tell that to Samantha.
Last week's Parenthood was pretty good. They did touch on something all of us experience - people wanting to give us health advice. I can't tell you how many times people have told me what to eat, or what supplement to take. They showed kind people bringing food, which is also true for most of us (or I hope it is). I never had six chickens in my fridge but I've been saved with meals more than once.
Then, they exposed difficult family relationships, which don't get better in a health crisis. Christina's mother has been absent and uncaring, and once again, would not come when her daughter is facing this very scary time in her life, something which hit close to home for me. Christina's quote was, "I want my mom, my own mom, to consider me important enough to get on a plane and come see me." I felt the same, but the difference for me was I never expected it so was not disappointed when it never happened. Christina is still hoping that the seriousness of her disease will fix a broken relationship. If the story stays true to reality, she will learn that cancer does not make people love you, and it does not change them into being caring if they were not to begin with. She will find that certain people she thought loved her will just disappear - but she will also learn to appreciate the people she does have, the ones who provide support. She will learn they are her true family.
She also says something we all feel, "I sometimes wish that things were back to normal, and I wish I could curl up into a ball and cry forever, but I can't."
So, with those moments, with Christina speaking a real truth, with the reactions of people around her reflecting what actually happens, I was hopeful that as this story arc plays out, they would get most of it right.
Then I saw this scene:
And, I realized how exactly right he was and how honest this show is.
I mean, look at me now:
I am a bit squeamish to continue watching, and "scenes from next week" seem to show her puking and looking bad, doing the entire cliche chemo bit. But the show is good so I will stick with it. Writers, if you come across this post, feel free to do me a favor and end this part of your story by the season finale. While those with breast cancer know it never truly ends, I will forgive a small untruth - just once.