When Fran Drescher said "cancer, schmancer," I laughed out-loud. When Samantha on Sex and the City sat with her three best girl friends, suggestively sucking on popsicles and gossiping after her round of chemo, I smiled. But that was all years before my own mother was diagnosed and then succumbed to the disease. Admittedly I lost my ability to treat it lightly after seeing what she went through. I didn't want to see depictions of it at all after seeing the horror of the reality. But Showtime's newest half-hour series The Big C has changed all that.
Laura Linney stars as Cathy in The Big C, a woman who has been given only one year to live after a melanoma diagnosis. She could opt for treatment, like chemo or an alternative form of radiation, but she has instead decided to just go all in for her final 365 days, including eating only desserts for her meals (a woman after my own heart). She has always loved her hair, after all, and cries even when she has to get it cut!
Cathy's decision to finally go about life saying and doing exactly whatever she feels like is freeing for her, and it lightens her up in a way that I personally think will help her to heal. After all, the show is quirky and clever and not a miniseries-- and it can't possibly go on without it's protagonist, so what are the odds she'll really perish after a year? Once one removes unnecessary stress from his or her life, anyway, he or she really gets to thrive, after all.
When my mother got sick, she seemed ready to just get her affairs in order. I asked her to try an alternative treatment, and she did, but I think we both knew it wouldn't do much but prolong the inevitable. And after seeing what she went through, I vowed to live my life doing whatever made me happy for the moment because your last moment could be a lot sooner than you may expect.
Seeing Cathy do the same may validate my decision but in a bittersweet way. Because for every smile or laugh or moment where she does something spontaneous, eye-brow raising or seemingly "out of character," there is the undercurrent that she's only doing it because she thinks she has nothing left to lose. Without her terminal diagnosis she probably never would have had the guts to go for this life-changing, life-affirming behavior. It's a case of "you need to die in order to truly learn to live," and it's unfortunate because most people who watch the show will marvel at her bravery and spirit but will still go about their regular mundane lives, fretting over which couch matches their living room color scheme better or an extra few pounds they may have put on.
I would challenge you all to tune into The Big C on August 16th (and every week following its premiere on Showtime) and then go out and do one thing that you might not normally have the nerve to do in honor of Cathy. But in all truth, I don't think you will need my challenge: you will feel energized into doing just that after watching the show all on your own. And it doesn't have to be anything big, like telling your boss to go screw himself or anything, but I guarantee it will be the perfect little shot of energy you need to revitalize your attitude on life!