Coming back from the “Summer of Love” show at the Whitney the other day, on the subway with our friend Nance and my nine-year-old son, we’re riding in one of those cars that got taken over by a single advertiser, so that everywhere we looked there was an ad for a new TV show called SEXY DIRTY MONEY.
When I point that out to Nance, my little boy says “There’s a show on MTV called SEXY DIRTY CANCER.” I smile at what I take as his need to contribute something original to the conversation, and patiently try to convince him to give up this obvious fabrication. But he insists, so I let it go.
At home, later in the evening, he wants to watch something on the TLC cable channel, which runs “educational” shows, but on topics usually not approached in school. Sometimes very necessary topics, and often exceptional.
The show was about “the tallest woman in the world” who lives in rural China, and her travails. It was moving and, I have to admit, educational. When it ended they had an ad for the show to follow, showing clips from it, and called CRAZY SEXY CANCER.
So he got the network wrong and one word in the title, but he was right, and that was educational for me as well, once more. We watched it, with him disappearing to draw amoeba like shapes on a fringed leather cowboy style vest, adding it to his outfit of tie-dyed tee shirt, metal peace sign hanging from a leather shoestring around his neck and anything else he could find to look like the hippies in the photographs and films and artwork we’d seen earlier at the Whitney show, where he was mesmerized by the ‘60s light show films playing in dark cubicles throughout the exhibit.
CRAZY SEXY CANCER turned out to be another documentary to add to the list of favorites. Made by Kris Carr—a young woman, in her early thirties, if that—and professional actress, who found out she has twenty-eight (28!) tumors, in her lungs, her liver, throughout her body, on Valentine’s Day 2003 and started a video diary that turned into a documentary on becoming consumed with cancer and how best to respond to it, including ignoring it completely and getting on with life with so much determination and beautiful vitality I couldn’t help falling in love with her.
She ends up focusing not just on her own case, but on the cases of several other women as well, including a young mother and her sister, and an older playwright. Their courage, honesty, and all the other clichéd but nevertheless true attributes that many people display under similar circumstances, is not only poignant and heartening, but also devastating.
It’s difficult enough to deal with one’s own mortality, but watching such lovely women deal with it so seemingly prematurely is tough. Especially Kris Carr, who is so adorable, while still venting her anger and disappointment and sadness and fear and vulnerability and depression and tenacity and determination to not let it stop her life from moving forward, despite the “incurability” of her particular cancer.
It’s a compelling story, and not just because I’m a “survivor.” More importantly because it’s told so truthfully and in the unique voice and perspective of this lovely but real young woman who was able to seize the opportunity to make a statement about her predicament, and that of others in similar predicaments, and do it with artistry and originality.
It’s more proof, if we needed it, that once again Jack Kerouac was prescient, and not just about the literary world, when he wrote::
“I would like everybody in the world to tell his full life confession and tell it HIS OWN WAY and then we’d have something to read in our old age, instead of the hesitations and cavilings of ‘men of letters’ with blear faces who only alter words that the Angel brought them…”