50/50 – Science Behind the Movie

As you know, since being diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor, I have been trying to gather resources to help others who are dealing with a similar diagnosis. Someone recommended that I watch the movie 50/50, and after completing my own review of the movie 50/50, I found this review that looks at the science behind the movie. I thought it was interesting. So, here is the low down on the science behind the movie.

Cancer on Screen

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50/50 is a comedy drama about a 27 year old Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his rare diagnosis of Schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma, he is told his prognosis is a 50% chance of survival.

The film has a 7.7 rating on IMDb and was actually based on true events of Will Reiser, the screen writer for the movie who developed cancer in his early twenties. The film addresses  the struggles of having cancer at a young age, the content is lighthearted and humorous in places but also a real tear jerker. Anyone who loves Seth Rogan will love this film!! He plays Adam’s funny best mate.

So lets look, what is Adam’s rare cancer? What is is Schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma? The film does not explain. they simply refer to his cancer as back cancer and make jokes about the funny long name….

To understand a little more about Adam’s cancer we need to know…

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50/50 Movie Review

I have a confession to make. Some time between my diagnosis back in June and my surgery in December, someone told me that I really should watch this movie called “50/50”. So, I went on-line, did a little search, and a few days later the movie was sitting in my mailbox.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie, the plot (which is incidentally based on the experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser) basically boils down to this –  [not sure if this description requires a spoiler alert]  – young man is having back pain, young man sees doctor, MRI reveals a schwannoma (incidentally the same type of tumor I had), young man has to deal with his diagnosis, young man has to deal with the people closest to him as they deal with his diagnosis, young man has surgery, and they live happily ever after. 

But back to my confession… you see, when I requested the movie, I was dealing with my own diagnosis, and the people closest to me were dealing with my diagnosis, and then I had the surgery, and ever since then, I have been dealing with my recovery, and… the movie has sat on my coffee table for over almost six months. So tonight, I was home alone, and the movie was sitting on the coffee table, and I slipped it in the DVD player, and I watched.

At the time, I didn’t know that the man who wrote the screenplay had actually had a spinal cord tumor (I only discovered that when I started digging around on Google after watching the movie), so I expected to be annoyed. Instead, I was surprised to see so much of my own experience portrayed on the screen. From the insensitive GP who bungles the delivery of the diagnosis to friends who are well meaning but who honestly have no idea how to help – from the feeling of numbness, to the rage and the fear – and the overwhelming sense of being utterly alone. It was all there.

I don’t know if I would like this movie if I’d seen it before my diagnosis, but I do think it is a story people who have been through a spinal cord tumor diagnosis can definitely relate to even if it does have a Disneyesque “happily ever after” ending. It might even be a good one to watch with your significant other or bff.

If you have watched the movie, would love to hear your thoughts.

** One small caveat… although the movie focuses on this Schwannoma being cancer, my understanding is that most are benign and are surgically removed without any chemotherapy or radiation. Even when they do have malignant tendencies, doctors tend to attempt total resection with the hope that they will not have to proceed with more aggressive therapies.

MY INFORMAL DISCLAIMER: LET ME BEGIN BY SAYING I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NOR AM I TRAINED IN ANY MEDICAL PROFESSION. I DO NOT PRETEND TO BE AN EXPERT; I AM SIMPLY A PERSON WHO IS TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF HER OWN EXPERIENCE. I AM SHARING WHAT I LEARN AND EXPERIENCE HERE BECAUSE I KNOW HOW LONELY THE ROAD FROM DIAGNOSIS TO RECOVERY CAN BE, AND IF I CAN HELP EVEN ONE PERSON, THE TIME I SPEND WRITING THESE WORDS WILL BE WORTH IT.