Cancer. It’s a terrifying word, one that brings up the idea of sickness and death, conjuring up images of tubes, wires and hospital beds. Just hearing the word can bring worlds crashing down. Whether it’s through knowing someone with cancer, knowing someone who has a loved one affected by cancer, or even having cancer yourself, most people have been touched by cancer in their lifetime.
Now imagine that you’re seven years old, and you’re being told your mom has cancer. You understand it enough to be scared, to know that your mom is very sick, but you’re too young to understand the reality of it. When you’re seven years old, your parents are invincible. They can’t die. Even when her cancer comes back two years later, you don’t realize the gravity of the situation. You don’t, in fact, understand it until you’re an adult and cancer strikes again.
This is what happened to me. I remember my mom having cancer, and I remember her being sick, but by the time I was old enough to understand the actual severity of her situation, she had been in remission for so long that it seemed like her cancer was just a dark spot in our distant path. My world was turned upside down in 2013 when we were told that my mom’s cancer came back, and doctors weren’t quite sure how to approach her situation.
It was like the cycle started again. I was 20 at the time and fully understood my mom could die. Even at 20, I couldn’t imagine losing my mom, but that wasn’t the scariest part. My baby sister was six years old at the time of the diagnosis and in the same exact position I was. Sure, mommy was sick, but she can’t die. Moms don’t die.
On the surface, What You’ve Got is my family’s journey through my mom’s cancer, but it’s more than that. Not only has my mom so far beat the odds on an extremely rare and particularly aggressive cancer, but she has refused to let it beat her in any respect of the word. My mom has always said she could live like she’s going to live or she could live like she’s going to die, but she doesn’t want to look back in twenty years and realize she wasted time thinking she was going to die, and it has become her life philosophy.
What You’ve Got is a celebration of life in the face of cancer. The dialogue is about my mother’s cancer, but it’s juxtaposed with moments of every day life to symbolize that while cancer might be a part of her life, it hasn’t defined it. The hope is that anyone who has been or is being affected by cancer can draw some sort of strength or comfort knowing they’re not alone. Cancer is a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to define you. Life keeps going, and it’s all about how you handle it.
Medium: Video, 9 minutes and 32 seconds