Monday, November 14, 2011

The movie 50/50 and pre-operation jitters

For me, everything prior to the operation I classify as “fear of the unknown”, and everything after the operation has felt like “fear of the known”.
How so?

The big questions regarding my tumor weren’t going to be answered until “The Good Doctor” cut me open and looked. Then, and only then, would we have answers to: “Is it benign or cancerous?”, “How far has it penetrated?”, “What other problem did she find?” and “What capabilities will I regain and which are gone forever?” (e.g. my full eyesight).

If you want to lose sleep at night, all you have to do is think a little too hard about all the things that can go wrong in an upcoming major operation. I did. It’s hard not to.
Fear of the “known” is different in that now you know all too well what your problem, is and you’re staying up nights trying to figure out how to deal with it.

The movie 50/50 does a nifty job of painting the emotional landscape of “fear of the unknown”. For me, that landscape includes the “Five Stages of Grief” - denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance - and I felt that different characters showed different stages of grief at different times (i.e. for an explanation of the unproven yet well-known Kübler-Ross model, see ).

In terms of “denial”, I felt that Seth Rogen’s character was in denial during much of the movie. Yes, he was being the good buddy by trying to cheer up “Adam” (i.e. Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s character), but I felt that he hadn’t really accepted the severity of Adam’s sickness. On the other hand, Adam seemed to be surprisingly “accepting” until the night before the operation when he goes a little berserk (“anger”).

I’d also argue that Adam’s mom, played by Anjelica Huston, demonstrated a lot of bargaining behavior, like wanting to brew him some green team as if by doing so it would “fix” something.
 “Depression?” Yeah, I saw much of that in his portrayal of Adam, too.

Did I hit these stages of grief prior to surgery? You betcha! Like Adam I skipped “bargaining”, but I dialed up “denial” before I even knew what was going on. Or, perhaps better said, to deny what was really going on.

My emotional roller coaster ride dove into depression, bounced up into anger and dove back down again several times before leveling out into “acceptance”.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend that you do. The characters are flawed and more “real” than your typical Hollywood movie. The situation is serious, but like a good Shakespearean drama, it finds plenty of opportunities for comic relief without trivializing the situation.

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