A Lifetime Movie Versus Real Life
I often go out of my way to avoid movies and tv shows that portray women struggling with breast cancer, but I was taken in by some of the hype surrounding the Lifetime movie “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, ” which aired last Monday night, and will be on again on Saturday night Oct. 28th.
From what I read, the story was compelling: the true story of tv journalist Geralyn Lucas, who had the bad luck to be diagnosed with breast cancer when she was only 27. I knew from the interviews I read in the NY Times that the movie had a happy ending--Geralyn is now 39, healthy, the mother of two children, and an executive at Lifetime. But I’m not sure watching it was a worthwhile use of two hours for me. While some of the stuff rang true, overall the movie annoyed me in several ways.
Let me start with what I liked about it. A few things resonated with my own experience: The portrayal of Lucas’s supportive colleagues and friends. How Lucas’s husband, a doctor, tried very hard to save his wife’s life by consulting other doctors and reading studies, but also got jealous and felt pushed aside because of the amount of time she spent with her girlfriends. I also liked Patti LaBelle’s portrayal of a fellow chemotherapy patient, who gives Lucas the sage advice that having cancer is a “get out of jail free” card for the stuff she doesn’t feel like doing. And it seemed realistic the way Lucas’s parents tried hard to be there for her, but were often intrusive when they practically moved into her small New York City apartment, cramping her and her husband.
Here’s what I found shallow and superficial: the way Lucas, or at least the movie portrayal of her, seemed to sail right past the “I’m 27 and I have breast cancer and I could die,” issues and focused so much on her decision to have a mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy. That just didn’t ring true to me. I also found Lucas’s decision-making process, which included visiting a strip club to try to understand the power of breasts, kind of silly. Although I was older than Lucas when I was diagnosed--41 rather than 27--and I was already a mother of two small children and didn’t have to face the uncertainties of whether I would ever become a mother, my concerns about breast cancer and my mortality were certainly different than hers.
I’m glad that Lucas’s story was upbeat, and I hope she continues to thrive. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch the movie yourself. Make up your own mind and let me know what you think.
Published On: October 25, 2006