A Lion in the House Talkback
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Visit our archived discussion forum to read posts from viewers, the filmmakers and family members from A LION IN THE HOUSE.

People have been asking how they can help or contact the families in A LION IN THE HOUSE. For more information, contact independentlens@pbs.org

This comment area is closed to new submissions. Visit ITVS.org to continue the conversation about this film.

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6/28/06
Eric Hahn
Omaha, NE

I accidentally came upon this documentary while changing channels. I am so glad that happened! My best friend lost his battle with cancer 11 years ago at the age of 25. I knew him since we were 4 years old. We were neighbors and grew up together. Although 25 would not be considered a "child," he was a child to 2 wonderful parents. I witnessed the stress, tragedy, suffering of these parents as their child was slipping away from them.
I read a posting by a viewer and have to say I am strongly disappointed in her husband and her decision not to view the rest of the program. Yes, it is very sad and depressing, but part of life. The local and national news is also very sad and depressing. But you simply cannot put your head in the sand and ignore such unequivocally pertinent topics! I spent 3 years dealing with this very personal type of tragedy! You should be able to cope with this non-empathetic type situation for 120 minutes.
I'm also thankful for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and watch their programs as well.
Please donate.
In memory of my best friend Mark E.

6/28/06
Chicago, IL.

This film was and is moving. Like many of the writters that have voiced oppinions on this page, I too hugged my two boys and rememberd those who have died and survived. My husband and I have a friend who survived childhood Lukemia. As I see him now playing with his two daughters I had never thought of the pain and suffering that he had to undergo. The twist of his story is that as like many children (and none by the way portrayed in this film) he was an imigrant with few resources. He was brought to the US and underwent Chemo that saved his life. Thanks to the hard work of his parents.
This film inspired, served as a catalist for conversation and greatly informed.

6/28/06

Your film brought back so many memories. In 1983, my son had Wilm Tumor in both kidneys. He had several surgeries, 1-1/2 years of chemo and several radiation treatments. He was three years old at the time and didn't understand much of what was happening but like the children in your story he was so very brave during the treatments and tests. After 23 years from his diagnoses date he has now graduated from college and married. He goes back to the hematology summer camp he attend so many years ago as a counsler to give back. He is living proof to the patient children that you can survive cancer treatments, surgeries, tests. He has turned out to be a remarkable young man who survived cancer. God Bless the staff members at the hospitals and yourselves for making this film. May God Bless those who have or are going through such difficult times...prayers from a cancer survivors mom.

6/28/06
Susie Brooks
Burlington, North Carolina

Scanning with the TV remote, I started watching A LION IN THE HOUSE in the middle. I was glued to the TV. I cried so much I used about 15 tissues and am still grieving. They are all precious children and families. I fell in love with Tim and my own family can't believe I'm still talking about him, just like I knew him, and I cry as I type this today. His humor and sometimes sad look deep in his eyes captured my heart. Life is short and such a gift. I will see Tim "again" someday in Heaven & I hope he lets me give him a big hug. Blessings to all the families involved and thanks for sharing such a powerful story with us.

6/28/06
Doria Johnson
Evanston, IL

Thank you for tenacity--this could not have been an easy venture.

I will never forget these kids--especially Tim. He looks so much like my brother, and I had to watch him die of AIDS.

Tim and family, thank you so much for your courage, I will never forget you, Tim, your smile, your humor, your insight into how the rich should act and most of all, your strength. I learned life-lessons from you and will continue to say your name daily as long as I live.

You, my dear Tim, did not live in vain. You showed the world what humanity and bravery is, you defined for us these terms, may you live forever in the hearts of your family, caregivers, filmmakers and audience.

6/28/06
Amy
NJ

Thank you for such an uplifiting look into the lives of these people. I was moved to tears. Not a concentration on death, but one of courage, strength, and hope.

6/28/06
Robert Davis
Shaker Heights, OH

What a moving program 'A Lion in the House' was. I haven't let out a good cry like that in a couple of years. I missed the end of the first part, but did catch the second part. I was overcome with grief last night when Tim's mom had to have the realization that he was not going to get better. That made me think about when my mother told me she had cancer- the exact same cancer Tim had. Eventhough he was young and my mother in her late 40's, it still hit the same. I was thinking about how scared both of them must have been to go through all the chemo and tests, etc. I'm 28 years old and I would be terrified if I had to go through what Tim and mother went through! Luckily for me, my mother is alive and cancer free for about 5 years!!! I'm just glad Tim had a wonderful time in Chicago. It was great to see how happy he was with his mom and sister eventhough he was in pain. I hope his mom can go on with her life somehow knowing Tim's spirit is with her.

6/28/06
Michelle Riley

I have a niece who has cancer and is only a few months older then my daughter. I still can't imagine what it is to go through this - I hug my daughter more then I already did. The people who work in the hospitals are truely amazing.

6/28/06
S. Broadnax
Flint, Michigan

I watched the PBS documentary,A Lion In The House twice,I thought that it was very moving,I cried for all the families especially Tim He touched my heart the most,his story had me thinking about him and crying for days.It hurt my heart when his mother could not be there for him because she could not accept that her son was dying but I was glad that he did not die alone.My heart goes out to all the families.

6/28/06
lindsay
louisville

My stepmom (connie koons) was the nurse that cared for Tim Woods...though i was only eight when Connie brought Tim home for the first time I remember it like it was yesterday. This film was extremly hard for me to watch... My dad and Tim were like best friends and Tim was almost a brother to me...while a Lion in the house was in the sudance film festival my family went to Cleveland Ohio and Nashville Tennessee to see it...I had the opprotunity to meet Steve and Julia and the families. By looking at them you would never have thought that they went through that much pain and suffering...I got the chance to talk to all of them...they are the most amazing people you will ever meet. I hope that everyone gets to meet people like this, because coming from a 14 year old they are the most amazing people I have ever met.

6/28/06
nashville, tn

I happened to catch the first episode a week or so ago, and couldn't turn it off. I TiVoed part two and watched it later. I still haven't gotten over it yet. It touched me in so many ways. I would like to thank the filmmakers and the families and children in this film for allowing us to share in what goes on in fighting this lion. My heart goes out to the families of Tim, Alex and Justin. Thank you all for your time and devotion in this project.

6/28/06
Maya

Thank you so much to the five remarkable kids along with their loved ones. Each story was strong and powerful. The long journey that Justin took, along with the powerful touch of Alex with life and along with Tim who had me in tears who so much wanted to live and seam to be alone so much during his fight. My heart and respect goes to his mother. My mind is still blown away with how do you deal with the death of a child? also having to deal with explaining to them all has been done for them and that there is no more that can be done. That hurts me to even think of what all these famlies had to bare. from the ones who moved on to the ones who survived, God bless all that were in this to the film makers to the famlies along with the staff at the hospital. Because of all five kids i now have a new look on life, and i am so grateful to all FIVE OF THE KIDS.

6/26/06
Jan Cook
Greewell Springs, LA

On Independent Lens this past Wednesday and Thursday night called A Lion in the House was one of the most compelling and emotionally draining programs I have ever had the priviledge to watch.. Those poor children and with such grace until the end. Thank you LPB for showing this program and continuing to expand my world.

6/26/06
Christina Stone

Hello. My name is Christina Stone. I am a mom of twin toddlers, almost two years old. They're both girls, and I'm really glad they are mine! I recently watched part of "A Lion in the House," by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, and I was forced to miss the ending because my children's father presented a good point. I claimed that I wanted to watch the show because it was intensely heart-felt, honest, and an amazing portrayal of what it must be to be a family struck with a childhood cancer patient. I also wanted to start preparing myself if such a disasterdly twist of fate came to our home and harmed one of our girls. It's a reality one has to be aware of. He made the comment that the show was depressing to him, and that if the time came to face the emotions and traumas the show invoked, he would but he would not openly seek out the harm a show could bring him like this. I respected his stance, so we changed the channel, and I missed the ending, perhaps only of the first half of the documentary.

I felt very saddened and disturbed by what these families had to go through in watching their children slowly die. I do not know what became of Alex Lougheed or of Tim, but I am certain I watched far enough in to know what was to happen to Justin. All I know is that I truly hope all of these families have had the support they deserve for showing such amazing strength and inspiration as family. Alex's case struck me most closely to my heart because she was so young, and I already explained that I have two young daughters myself. I was actually hoping you might be able to tell me that she is alive and doing well today, if that is the case, or at least let me know a way I can find out about her life without disturbing her family's privacy.

My heart goes out to these people. May God bless them for their strength and kindness and welcome the children who lose their battles with cancer to a heavenly kingdom of joy that knows no sorrow and pain.

6/26/06

I feel fortunate to have had a chance to read the outstanding comments posted at this and other sites today. I was so pleased to see that Steven Bognar is also seeing and responding to the OUTSTANDING contribution that he and all the people associated with this film have made on many levels.

I can add no more to the comments regarding this film as it relates to its primary theme. I seek to highlight the other important themes that are so relevant to any viewer who is lucky enough to view this piece of work from other perspectives.

Appropriately aggressive testing in all levels of our health care system that would have provided a diagnosis as early as possible, appears to remain a challenge for many citizens of our country. At least two families appeared to have late diagnosis which I strongly suspect gave their childrens' cancers a head start. In another case, only a mother who was confident in her sense of concern spurred further testing. Imagine a different and less confident "in medical matters" parent in the same scenario.

The unobtrusive and completely vivid view this film provided regarding end of life issues is applicable to all of us as individuals and families. Thank you for providing a vehicle that we must make the people who surround us understand and address in advance.

The effects of treating any disease on the other aspects of a life and family were an insightful view and so thought provoking.

Finally, the face (those eyes will stay with me forever) of teenager Tim, with no real support system, receiving such fateful news, has clearly reminded us all that perspective is a powerful tool we should better employ in keeping our balance in life. Many of us have felt the sting and pain of bad news, injustice that won't be made right, and seemingly overwhelming dissapointment. Most of us have had support systems in the form of family and friends and our status as adults to deal with these issues. This film reminds all of us on so many levels what perspective is all about.

All of the professionals featured in this film remind us all that the real people among us do their jobs well and silently because they care and are willing to face the difficulties every day. They have their own understanding of what keeps them at it. They remain unknown to us until we need them to come forth and be such an important part of our lives at that moment.

I can only imagine how difficult this project was to do and complete. I am so glad to have the opportunity to thank Mr. Bognar and his staff for this work. This is life changing and impactful stuff, Mr. Bognar.

6/26/06
Jason Humphrey
New Braunfels, TX

This work was very powerful.

Rarely in my life have I seen anything as real, raw, sad and inspiring as this.

In an age where we are driven, or permit ourselves to be driven, to be self absorbed, super star obsessed consumers, to have something like this to come along and smack us in the face with our own humanity and shake us out of our stupor is, for lack of a better term... powerful.

Watching this... I cried, I laughed... cried again, and then went to hug my children.

One couldn't help but identify with these children and especially their families. Through the eyes of children we took the journey through our own souls, and I am the better for it.

Thank you for making this film, and thanks to the families for sharing this journy with us.

6/26/06
Patrick Cody
Washington, DC

Cancer and other life threatening illnesses have a serious impact on families. About 80 percent of children who have a life threatening illness experience post-traumatic stress reactions. One study showed post-traumatic stress reactions in parents are common years after an illness is treated. In response, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network created a "pediatric medical trauma toolkit" to help physicians and families reduce children's distress. The toolkit is available for free at:

http://www.nctsn.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=typ_mt

6/26/06
New Jersey

I watched both part 1 & 2 of A Lion in the House, and I was moved to tears. My family has gone through exactly what all three families went through when my newphew John was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. John fought the disease for six months and sadly lost his battle in Oct. 2003. He was only 20. It is very difficult to watch someone you love die. As a result, my family now raises money for the Leukemia/Lymphoma society in his honor so that a cure will be found for this horrible disease. Please extend my deepest sympathy to the families of Tim, Justin & Alex.

6/26/06
Sara Coulson
Greater St. Louis, MO

I have waited patiently for the airing of "Lion in the House" after reading about it on an ACOR list devoted to Rhabdomyosarcoma. My son was initiatlly diagnosed with this childhood cancer, but his diagnosis was later changed to Ewing's Sarcoma. October, 2006 he will be a two year survivor.

Thank you for making this film to bring attention to childhood cancer and the devastation it brings to an entire family.

And thank you to every parent before us who has made difficult treatment decisions that, while it may have not saved your own child, made better treatment available for our children who have come after you.

6/26/06
Kathy Judson
Salem, Oregon

As a former special ed teacher whose husband works in a successful, well-respected family business our children were welcomed into a life of comfort and opportunity. Good schools and teachers, rich experiences and exposures, and a firm, loving pair of parents -- what more could a child need? As every parent of a college-aged student knows, this question is inane. Our son "needed" a college 3,000 miles away! He had earned the right academically and the school was a great one in a beautiful state, so he was off. The first two years were under his belt and it was time for the Junior Year Abroad. The summer leading up to his departure for England was challenging -- the summer pool job was exhausting and frustrating and his family was tiresome and irritating. With the usual battery of tests and shots we were frankly thrilled to see him go. Sure, he had some bronchitis but he left with the appropriate medications.

Approximately five weeks later the phone message was "Mom, they think I have cancer." We were immediately thrown into the Cancer World with its own language and medical protocol. Although angry and frustrated by the derailment from his goals and dreams, we all rallied to support him through chemo and radiation. This time he had REALLY earned a road trip to return to college. Beating non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was a tremendous accomplishment. We all could breathe again; for nine months we had been afraid to exhale.

The road trip was complete and Thank God! he and his friend arrived back at school with only one speeding ticket! It seemed to us a real privilege to deal with a "normal" transgression. For two months life settled back into a routine, although now his sister was a senior in high school so a real "routine" was difficult to define. Our Tentative Peace was destroyed by another call "Mom, my cancer is back." This time he planned to undergo the next rounds of chemo in Boston --"It's only two hours away, Mom." What do college kids know about chemo, proper nutrition, total exhaustion, compromised immune sysytems? As my mind raced the drama and intensity rose in my voice to a raging level. "Get home NOW!!"

On his return I was now Persona Non Grata and Evil Personified. I could handle it -- good health was more important. Consolidation therapy began and our daughter was tested for compatibility for a possible transplant. We were told she was not a viable match; the doctors were working for an autologous transplant anyway. More chemo, but the tumor in his chest was still growing. His physician at Oregon Health Sciences University said that we should try Stanford University Medical Center where he had trained and where his mentor was doing solid research in lymphoma. We had scheduled a flight and a motel before the medical referral was in place.

We could do this. After all I was born in Palo Alto. Couldn't my son's health be "reborn" there? More treatment began with moderate success. The staff decided we should all undergo HLA testing to check once again for compatibility. We were horrifed to learn that not only was our daughter a viable (5 out of 6 match) my husband was as well. We were all furious, but chose to squelch it in order to move forward to an allogeneic transplant with his sister as donor. Our dear girl was tender -the type who fainted at the sight of blood especially her own!- but endured the surgery to remove marrow form her pelvic bones. Finally the goal had been completed and we could watch our beautiful son return to his bright, wry and sunny self. It was time to inhale again.

We had taken an apartment across from the hospital with my husband and me rotating residence there. What young man doesn't dream of such an arrangement! We had survived all the tension, the fear, the anger, the medical errors, the distance, et al. but were once again on the home stretch. He started out in the BMT unit but was transferred to ICU with breathing problems. For three weeks we watched oxygen levels, hematocrit levels and kidney function. The only part of his body not invaded by tubes were his feet, so we massaged them at each visit to remind him of our presence. He let us hug him -- I couldn't remember the last time that had happened! As I reflect I realize now that we were losing him, that the chemo had taken its toll, and that the anger had finally dissipated. He could no longer breathe.

I carried a huge box of tissue with me those last days in Palo Alto. I didn't care. We found a mortuary and made plans to bring our son home. "Please, take care of him. He's just a college kid", I said. The funeral director(a family-owned business) asked where he went to school. I said he went to Bowdoin College in Maine. His eyes welled as he said they had just returned from there as his son was doing the College Search. Palo Alto was afterall filled with well-educated people who valued the snme for their kids -- just as we did.

It's been eight years since we held a memorial at the same pool where he and his sister guarded and taught swimming. Since then we've battled grief, depression, guilt, more anger, attempted litigation to guide each other through the greatest pain a family can know. We've made it --my husband donates platelets once a month and has done so for almost eight years now, I volunteer my time to talk to other parents going through serious health issues with their teen or young adult kids, and our daughter is now a high school guidance counselor. On the most recent Father's Day our daughter signed a card with her name Lesley and her brother's Todd. I believe we can now breathe again.

Thank you for your powerful film and for introducing me to my counterparts all over the country. Our Cancer Experiences unite us.

6/26/06
Catherine Schmeltz
Kansas City, MO

I have been an oncology nurse for 25 years here in Kansas City. Your documentary "A Lion in the House" was outstanding. The essence of love and compassion was present throughout. I was especially impressed with the care and love shown by the physicians and nursing staff. They truly love their profession as I do. They made me feel like I want to leave gynecology oncology and go do pediatric oncology!!

Thank you for such an awe inspiring and rewarding story. These families and children are true heroes.

Catherine Schmeltz, RN,OCN
St. Luke's Cancer Institute
Kansas City, MO

6/26/06
BENITA GOGGINS
COLUMBUS OHIO

I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT THANK YOU FOR LETING PEOPLE KNOW HOW BAD CANCER REALLY IS. I AM A SINGLE PARENT I HAVE 4 CHILDREN MY DAUGHTER CAME DOWN WITH CANCER TO SEE HER EYES FULL OF TEARS AND MY HEART JUST SPLIT IN HALF. I KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE A FIGHT, IT WAS NOT MY DAUGHTERS FIGHT IT WAS NOT MY FIGHT IT WAS GODS FIGHT. BELIEVE ME I DEPEND ON GOD FOR EVERYTHING SHANILE GOGGINS IS HER NAME SHE HAD A STEM CELL TRANSPLANT CHEM RADIATION ULCERS IN THE STOMACHE AND PRAYER SHE WILL BE STARTING BACK TO COLLEGE IN SEPTEMBER OF 06 HER DAD GAVE UP TOOK HER OFF HIS INSURANCE IT WAS HARD IN EVERY WAY YOU CAN IMAGINE THE LOSS OF HAIR THROWING UP BODY ITCHING HURTING NURSES MEAN TO YOU. PEOPLE FEELING SADFOR YOU BUT I KNEW I HAD TO GET UP AND GO TO WORK AND THE HOSPITAL WITH MY DAUGHTER AND HIDE MY TEARS AS A MOTHER IT IS HARD SO THIS MOVIE TOUCHED ME AND I PRAY FOR ALL THE PEOPLE THAT ARE GOING THROUGH THIS FIGHT BECAUSE THIS CANCER TAKES MORE THAN JUST MEDINCINE IT TAKES PRAYER PRAY TOGETTHER AS A FAMILY REBUKE THE DEVIL FAST BE READY BECAUSE GOD WILL PREVAIL

6/26/06
Joyce Kahle
Cincinnati, OH

Thank you for sharing the marvelous film, "Lion In the House." I sat absolutely glued to the TV and shed lots of tears while viewing it. The precious kids and their families were outstanding in their generosity to share such a sacred journey with us. Julia and Steven did a magnificent piece of work and a great service to all of us, especially to those whose lives have been touched by childhood cancer.

6/26/06
Heather Jarrett

I just watched your film about childhood cancers and found it extremely knowledgable and heartfelt. I have a daughter who was diagnosed with acute lymphositic leukemia (or ALL). She will be celebrating her 10th year in remission December 26th of this year. I now know and understand how the parents of cancer kids feel with all the pain and fear that these children go through.

6/26/06
Margaret Newman
DesPlaines, IL

A Lion in the House, was heartwrenching, yet, positive in that it showed the strength that families can have under such dreadful adversity. I hope it will be shown again on PBS on Channel 11, in Chicago. Thank you for a remarkable film.

6/26/06
Brenda Highfield
Shelby, OH

I did not get to see the movie "Lion in the House" but I want to commend you for putting out such a movie as this to help educate the public and medical community about the late effects that can come with cancer treatments. I have watched the mini clips on your site and the stories are so moving. I am sorry to hear that most of those children featured have lost their lives to the lion. Please let those still living know that you can still live decades later after cancer and I am proof of that plus friends I know. I am a 50-year survivor of wilms tumor, having it at age 11 months in 1956. I am now a childhood cancer advocate trying to educate the public and medical community about potential late effects. I belong to a discussion group online of over 400 members of childhood and adult survivors. Here is my website if you'd like to read more about me and want to forward it on to others. www.brenspages.homestead.com Again, THANK YOU for the time and committment you have put into teaching the awareness of potential late effects for childhood cancer survivors. I know IT WILL help them have more healthier lives for their future. God bless!

6/26/06
John Kula
Chicago

I caught A Lion in the House on PBS this week and I can honestly say it is easily the finest and most difficult to watch documentary I've ever seen. I will never forget those children who died, especially Tim Woods. His story has touched me in a way I cannot express. Thank you for the hours, efforts and pains you went through in order to make this important piece. I sat for four hours with my jaw hanging open, staring at the tv screen watching such young children suffer and die. It has changed my life in some way. That I know.

6/26/06
Matthew Smith
Lansing, MI

I just wanted to say that I am a childhood cancer survivor of non-hodgkins lymphomia that was a recipient of a bone-marrow transplant from my brother (the donor), and it was a great reminder of how fortunate I am. I have virtually no complications and am post transplant 16 years. I have a beautiful wife and family that all enjoyed this program. If you would like to contact me for anything please feel free. I do long-term foollow-up surveys annually and would be happy to share. I want other cancer patients and survivors know that there are not just horror stories, but extreme success stories. I am one of those. Again, thank you and god bless.

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