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BRAIN TUMOR DIAGNOSIS IS A “REAL CONVERSATION-STOPPER”
This is the opening paragraph in Ella Taylor’s review of War of Declaration, a movie about a couple whose baby was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “A baby with a brain tumor is nothing but heartbreak, but from a storytelling standpoint it can be a real conversation-stopper. There are no villains, unless you count fate or dumb luck. And the heroes lack glamour: Disheveled in sweats or whatever mismatched clothes come to hand each crisis-laden morning, parents play a high-stakes game of Extreme Sisyphus, climbing the mountain of unspeakable treatments while staring down the slippery slope of bankruptcy, marital strain and uncertain outcomes.”
The reason I wanted to share this portion of her review was the comment regarding the diagnosis being a “conversation-stopper”. Many parents talk about friends avoiding them because they don’t know what to say or their own family glossing over the topic because it is too difficult. Fast forward 15 years and the baby, hopefully, is now in high school. Guess what? Talking about having a brain tumor, even 15 years later, is still a conversation stopper. During survivor get-togethers, the survivors spend endless hours with each other talking about bad and mediocre experiences they have had sharing their diagnosis with peers. During a conversation about disclosure in the dating arena, a brilliant young man said he would tell a woman he had a brain tumor only after they were married. Can you imagine feeling that you need to be to the point you are already married before you can trust a person’s reaction to the fact you were diagnosed with a brain tumor as a child. Something which was completely out of your control. Even the survivors, who have found each other, find the conversations challenging. For the survivors who never know another survivor, the conversation may just never occur.
The article goes on to talk about decisions, the impact on finance and the impact on relationships. “Declaration of War attempts to chronicle the couple's struggle to keep him alive — and not disabled for life — without succumbing to despair or to the massive pressure placed on their already volatile relationship.” These struggles do not stop when treatment ends. At each new life transition, the family may face a multitude financial, relationship and other life challenges. There may always be questions about “what if we would have tied this treatment” or ‘what if we would not have had this treatment?”.
While I have not seen the movie, just having a review which openly begins a discussion about the impact of a childhood brain tumor diagnosis on every part of the family is a much needed discussion.
Here is the link to the original article http://www.npr.org/2012/01/26/145704977/young-parents-unready-for-the-war-ahead