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STARTING ON THE RIGHT FOOT: LOOKING AT HOW SURVIVORS EXPERIENCE THEIR CANCER

By Kayla Giacin
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This past weekend, my boyfriend Steven and I had the opportunity to go to the NYU News Documentary Film Festival featuring the thesis projects of graduate students at the school.

What made this experience special to us was that it featured a film by a good friend and fellow survivor, Johnny Cathcart.

Johnny’s documentary titled “Starting on the Right Foot” follows the story of a young woman, Daphne, who had to have her leg amputated at the age of 20 because of her cancer.  It goes without say that she faced and continues to face struggles every day, but throughout this film, the viewer is taken through her journey as it pertains to her overcoming obstacles.

Through the use of various prosthetic legs, each for a specific activity or purpose, Daphne is able to not only walk but bike, run and eventually conquer rock climbing with the use of these prosthetics. 

The film shows Daphne as she finds out about and attends First Descents (FD), a camp that offers young adult cancer patients and survivors an adventure that’s mean to challenge them and test their limits.  They offer camps in rock climbing, kayaking and surfing.  As I mentioned earlier, Daphne decided to take on the challenge of rock climbing. She traveled to Utah to join other patients and survivors of various cancers who were all facing their own challenges as it pertained to rock climbing and life in general.

What I always find amazing, no matter how many times I’ve experienced either myself or through others, is the incredible support of those in the cancer community.

It’s not just a pat on the back or well-intentioned trite words, but a genuine rally behind the other person encouraging them to take their problems head on.

Other cancer survivors also don’t try to tip-toe around certain topics that may seem sensitive to the survivor.  For example, during one of Daphne’s rock climbs, as she was scaling up she exclaimed, “I think my leg might fall off!” I feel like in different company, others might not know how to respond to this but with FD, everyone burst out laughing and continued to cheer her on.

Other survivors get it. Even if their specific challenges are different, they all feel a common tie just from having to face the challenge of having had cancer or tumors in general. 

However, one of the things that I enjoyed about watching this film was that I was watching it among an audience who may or may not ever had an experience with cancer.  Many of them were surprised by Daphne’s sense of humor and her willingness to be so open about her experiences.  I feel like it was an eye-opening film for many and gave real insight on what it’s like to be a part of a cancer community, even if they hadn’t before.

To me, this signifies a successful film for Johnny and progress for the overall cancer and tumor community.  I hope that strides like this, through Johnny’s efforts and through other efforts to come, will continue to make this happen.

You can check out the trailer to Johnny’s film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z--FMAm8ips

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