The Faces of Cancer

The first installment in a series of personal stories that reveal the human struggles at the heart of the story of cancer.

Sue was in 7th grade when her big brother, an 8th grader, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma. She remembers riding their family’s horse together in rural Idaho, having fun while pretending to be Paul Revere. She remembers his weight loss — one of the early signs he was sick. And she remembers the last time she saw him in the ICU. Sue’s story is about not just the loss of her brother, but what that loss meant to her life and how it changed her.

“You have to sit with that. It’s there. It’s terrible. Then you have to start a new life and that’s a task—it’s a job. You have to get up every day…and you have to figure out where that loss fits in your life. How do you make an enduring connection with that person who is gone? Bring them back to life? How are they in your life in a new way?”

For Sue, that meant becoming a doctor in palliative care and a volunteer with the American Cancer Society. Through her work, Sue maintains that connection every day, and in so doing, she keeps her brother alive.

Pam’s reaction to her breast cancer diagnosis was immediate — “OK, we gotta fix it” — and then built from there — “There were times where I’d just sit and be pissed off.” A patient at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Pam spent a year receiving world-class medical treatment and hours of chemotherapy when her doctors told her that the cancer had returned and spread to her bones.

“Once I kind of got past that I decided that, OK, I’m living with cancer. I’m not fighting cancer anymore. I’m living with cancer. And that’s when everything kind of changed — my whole thought process. I was no longer going to just listen and hear what doctors were going to tell me to do.”

Enter the catharsis of kickboxing, a way to channel her emotions and live with cancer on her own terms. And four years later she’s still fighting.

Pam and Sue’s stories were produced by Redglass Pictures, a creative production studio based in New York City. Special thanks to The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and American Cancer Society who were instrumental in capturing Pam and Sue’s stories on film. 

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