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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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Mr. Johnson

I watched part two of the lion in the house. I couldn't stop, it truly moved me and the tears in my eyes flowed. Those children how brave and the parents, I'm 44 years old and decided along time ago not to be a parent. So I truly don't know how it feels to have a sick child. Now about the medical staff at this Hospital THANK GOD for you I don't know how you do your job. You have a TRUE GIFT! To the film makers I say thanks but I do wish you could have included a write up on the nursing staff, like you did on the doctors. Over all the film is Very Good and I Thank You.

slc, ut

The film made me realize that there are more important things in life. And that we all are here for a purpose. This film had me crying for all of the children and I wish that Tim most of all would have had a chance at being a teenager. I send my prayers to everyone. And I hope that your hearts will fill less heavy as time goes by. Peace be with you all.

Helen Deines
Louisville, KY

As a professor who once worked as a hospice pediatric social worker, I found such joy in this film! The film makers captured so many truths--the strengths of diverse families, the out-of-sync maturity of children facing life-threatening illnesses, and the need for health professionals to grieve their own losses to name just a few. I was especially touched by the observation of how differently these children were treated--Alex was just tossed back into school with no transition recognizing his special post-treatment needs while Jenna received continuous tutoring. Even children with cancer, all treated with love and dignity in Cincinnati's Children's Hospital, encounter our society's racial and class inequities when they walk through the door back into the "real world."

k lott
indianapolis, in

I was both emotional and entranced by your show last night. I felt that finally people would get to have an inside view of what its like to have to go through when your child has cancer. I went through the very same things when my daughter suffered over 2 years with sarcoma. She gradually lost the battle and died at age 25. It was a fast growing sarcoma that had spread throughout her lungs. No one has been able to understand except for someone that has been there. I pray for all the people who have to endure the suffering of there children thru cancer. It took over 2 years of counseling for me to accept her death. I hope that cancer can be eliminated and no kid ever has to suffer like that again.

Sheila Flatley Rubio
Tempe, AZ

I stumbled upon part 2 while channel surfing last night and couldn't move until the end. It was an emotionally exhausting and incredibly powerful experience. Television at it's finest. I was humbled by each families generosity that allowed us a brief glimpse into their lives. As a mother of 4 healthy children I took a moment to thank God for all that I have and to do what one Mom said, hold them tight and tell them you love them.

Walonda Wallace
Shreveport, Louisiana

After viewing this documentary, I was very touched by the strength, motivation, and courage expressed by the children. It was amazing to see where the families began to break down, the children were there to provide support and vice versa. I was especially touched by the story of Tim Woods. I found myself continuously crying because he was so optimistic and he fought a good fight to the very end. I was also glad to see his mother pick herself up and move forward in life. She realized her son's purpose in life and that allowed her to be strong and love him even more through his passing. I've realized just how serious pediatric cancer is. Innocent children are stricken with such a harsh disease with various forms but I'm elated to see that doctors,researchers,practitioners,and families are banding together to fight the disease while providing strong support systems to one another. Thank you for this documentary. I would definitely like to become more informed of pediatric cancer. This website as well as the documentary provided me with a lot of insight. Again, thank you.

Bernard Lawrence
La Crosse, Wisconsin

I just finished viewing this powerful, heart breaking and reality independent film of children with cancer. Tears fell and sorrow overwhelmed me. I have never viewed such a captivating film in my entire life. I cried as I witnessed babies die from this ruthless and destructive disease.

The film compelled to think about my own daughter--wondering what would I do if God would have placed me in such a powerless position. PBS, I take off my hat to you for televising and sharing a world that I was very ignorant concerning. Again, you have brought try reality and try life living situations that has consumed my thoughts on life in which I feel we all take for granted until a film as this make one say-- how thoughtful I am for knowing and loving God! Continue your powerful a profound film producing and informative contribution to people like me and others.

Becca Sanchez
San Antonio, TX

I would like to thank all who were involved in this film for creating it- it has touched my life very much.
I just happened to stumble upon it, and have not been able to get it out of my head. Being a first time mother I could not imagine seeing my daughter in such a situation. I too think that the parents showcased as well as all others in the same situation have tremendous strength and love for their children.
I have been reminded of how blessed my family is and how important it is to contribute in some way to both independent film making and cancer research-especially pediatric. I will be spreading the word about this, and I implore others to do so as well.

Ellie Presner
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I haven't cried so much while watching TV since the week of 9/11. Those kids are/were amazing, so courageous and spirited - and the parents - heroes, every one of them.

People are all different, so it is logical that their ways of dealing with illness and the (possibly) impending death of their child are unique. But the lives lost - it is so devastatingly sad. Somehow Tim's death especially got to me, such a wise, caring child - his passing pained me so much - he could have been such a great man... we are so much the poorer without him.

Same for Alex. What a doll, what a personality, what drive, and love of life! My heart ached for her parents... for all the parents shown. It is an amazing film, just wonderful, to show so candidly what these kids and their families go through. It must have been truly gutwrenching for the filmmakers for the six years of its creation.

I learned that, as it is stated so beautifully in the film, life is utterly precious - we must savor and do the best we can, enjoying every moment possible. And we must never take good health for granted! Our time in this life is so fragile... it is a gift we must cherish. Let's all hug our children and other loved ones while we still can!!

Alice Eastlake Chew
Portal AZ

Thank you filmmakers for your devotion and patience in making a masterpiece!
I loved the children and their caretakers. The film showed how devoted doctors are and how they suffer when they cannot cure.
The film made clear how important it is to discuss serious illness and death with all the family members.
It was admirable that the doctors were willing to tell the children how serious their illness was and that death would be an outcome.

Wendi Dean
Dayton, VA

Like so many of the viewers that have commented, I cried throughout the entire 2 parts of this documentary. I am so grateful and thankful for the good health that my 2 children have been blessed with.

As a healthcare worker in the recent past, I did some float shifts on the oncology/hospice unit at our local hospital. Cancer is a cruel disease that doesn't discriminate. Regardless of age,sex,creed or religion it can come and steal a life quickly and it strips dignity from everyone in its path.

These children and their families have shown that there is such a thing as hope,faith and love even when faced with the most horrible of diseases. The staff was wonderful and caring. This film should be used as a teaching tool for facilities that handle both pediatric and adult cancer patients.

Thank you PBS for airing such a wonderful program. Yes, it was very sad but it gives us so much to be thankful for and lets us know there is a long way to go in the strides to beat cancer. God bless the children and their families.


I am a 41 year old single male with no children. This film took a hold of me and shook me to my core. I have never been so impacted by a work in my life. It was cathartic in the way it emotionally purged me, and also completely rebooted my world view related to what really matters. If I ruled the world for a day, everyone would be made to see this most important film. There exists no more of an all-emotionally encompassing ride out there. Hugely important, poignant, and remarkmable. Tim's story was especially moving. Thank you for this wonderful gift.

Jeanie Tinkle
Galveston, TX

Lance Armstrong once said "Cancer is a bastard; it does not care if you are a baby, a single mother or father, or an only child" This film validated his statement. I would like to thank the film-makers for introducing me to the most incredible, courageous, insightful, human beings I have ever met; Tim, Alex and Justin. Thank-you to their wonderful parents for setting an example to other parents to cherish and value each and every minute you have with your children. Tim, Alex, and Justin may have had a short life on this planet, but they have left an eternal legacy of extraordinary, courage, bravery and purpose to us all.
For every single child who has fought and lost their battle with cancer, may their lives be forever honored for being the brave soldiers they were.
God bless thier souls.

Diane Fody
Pompton Lakes, NJ

I lost my precious daughter, Jessica, to Rhabdo Sarcoma Cancer in January of 2004. She was only l5. When I began seeing commercials for your upcoming documentary, A lion in the house, I was very hesitant to watch. I was afraid that all those painful and agonizing memories would come back to me. I decided to watch your show and I was so surprised that I was unable to change the channel. I could relate to each of the children's fight to survive and recognized myself in each of the parents. It made me feel that I wasn't the only "victim" ... the only Mom who endured so much pain watching as my beautiful child never once wanted to give up trying to find that cure and fighting until her last breath was taken. My Jessica was treated at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City. She too, had such a wonderful doctor, Dr. Wexler. I realize too, how hard it is for the pediatric oncologists when there are no more treatments available and they feel so helpless when confronting parents and the child. I hope that viewers watching this heartwrenching documentary, will realize just how a life can be changed in a minute, when a child is diagnosed with cancer. It affects the entire family. Thank you for such a wonderful program, A Lion In The House.

Monica Daniels
Kingston Washington

I wanted to say thank you for making such a powerful documentary as A Lion In The House. I watched both parts and I thought about and cried all day at work today thinking about it. It was the most thoughtful and honest documentary I have ever watched. I think the families in the film were extremely brave for letting the cameras follow them during such an agonizing time and it will move a lot of people to do more to help fight pediatric cancer. Because of the film I plan to find some way I can help.

I cannot stop thinking about the five children and their families and how courageous they are. I especially cannot get Tim out of my mind and how positive he remained but how scared he was towards the end. Tim was a great kid and I wished I could have met him along with the other children. For the first time in my life I really hoped and prayed that there is a wonderful peaceful place the children that died go to.

One thing I found uplifting in the film was that I could never understand how the Doctors and medical staff could do it for so many years without buring out. But they mentioned that they do not get burned and in fact most stay and continue to work and fight hard to help these children and their families. I was also inspired by the families and the trememdous care they gave to their children.

Shauna Vogt
Hebron KY

This movie really hit home for me and opened up flood gates of memories for me.I grew up across the street from the Ashcrafts. Jennifer was my very first best friend as a child. My heart and thoughts are with you Debbie, Dale, Adam & Jennifer. I only wish that I could have half of all of your will power, courage and strength.
"Bud" your spirit and memory will always remain in my heart.
Love-Shauna (Arnett) Vogt

Joanne Dunn
Sarnia, Ontario, Canada

I cannot stop thinking about these ordinary, yet extraordinary families. I miss those children as though they were my own. Alex's "cute personality" (didn't she win the cutest personality contest at the summer camp?); Tim's proud demeanor and Justin's quiet strength. How blessed these families are to have had such special children. My heartfelt wishes to all of these families.

Carol Macdonald
Sturgis, MI

I watched the Lion in the House with great sadness. My husband and I were friend's with Alex's dad when he lived in our town a while back. Although I knew of Alex's sickness, being far away, I did not truly understand the magnitude of what Alex, Scott and Judy went through. Now I do.

They, along with the other families, are very couragous to let us witness the struggles they went through with this disease. I see them as true heroes.

I also pray that Scott can make peace in his decision to try one last treatment for Alex. He did it out of fatherly love for his daughter. What man would not do the same?

The film makers eloquently showed us how difficult it is to walk the fine line between when to give up and when to keep going.

Oklahoma City

As a pediatric oncology RN, I would like to thank you for bringing this subject material to the television venue. Too often, people seem to see only the negative side of caring for children with cancer. These children are so wonderful, and so strong, and you cannot imagine what an inspiration they are to work with, unless you do. I have always felt that I receive so much more from knowing these kids than I could possibly ever give back. I would have wished to have known each child that I have cared for in an entirely different setting, but I also have felt so honored to have shared in their lives and journeys.


My 2 year old son was diagnosed with Leukemia on March 11th of this year. I watched all four hours of this documentary and want to let you know how disturbing I found the show to be. All three children profiled in the documentary died from their disease which statistically is inaccurate. There were two other children mentioned that survived but little was said about them or their families. The documentary chose to focus on the pain and suffering of the children, their suffering of their families, etc. The show barely mention the amazing strides that doctors have made in the cure of Leukemia and Lymphoma and only at the end mentioned that 75% of children survive this disease. Statistically you should have featured 4 children who survived and are living normal lives and maybe 1 child who lost their battle but I guess that does not make for good TV.

Lions can be tamed!

Filmmaker Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert's response:

Dear Bryan,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the outcomes in A LION IN THE HOUSE. We appreciate you watching the film and writing to us about it. You are absolutely correct that this film is not statistically representative of the successes that have occurred in the last decades, as childhood cancer survival rates have gone up dramatically in the developed world. As you saw, the film documents years in the lives of each of the kids and families in A LION IN THE HOUSE. When we met these wonderful children and young people, their spirit and strength led us to firmly believe they would ALL survive. As we continued to document their journeys, in each case of the three kids who do not survive, we reached a turning point. We realized the eventual outcome would likely be the worst case scenario.

But we had developed deep relationships with these kids and families. We told them that we would stick with them and follow their stories, if they still wanted us to, whatever the outcome. We would not abandon them if their health took a turn for the worse. You can certainly argue with this decision, but we felt and still feel it was the right thing to do. Making a documentary means you sign on for a journey, but you do not get to decide the route, and you do not know the ending. Life takes you where it will, and our job as witness is to record it and to, as best we can, honestly and sensitively present what we saw and heard.

We would respectfully disagree with your characterization that there are only "three children profiled" in the filmwhile two others are "mentioned." There are five families profiled in A LION IN THE HOUSE, and we follow each of their stories for years. It is fair and true to say that the two children who survive do not receive the same amount of screen-time as the three children who do not survive, but their stories, from the early days of diagnosis through to their survivorship struggles years beyond their cancer treatment, are present in the film.

While the outcomes in A LION IN THE HOUSE are not what anyone wanted, we do hope the value of this film is to motivate viewers, especially those who have not been touched by childhood cancer, to get involved. This involvement can take many forms, including volunteering for some of our great national partners (like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) or by donating funds to research. Our daughter, like your son, is fortunate to have survived her cancer. But we are the lucky families, who have benefited from the years of ongoing research, and from kids like Alex, Justin and Tim who contributed to the pool of knowledge. Childhood cancer is a wrong beyond measure, and we hope this film increases support for families going through it, and for research so no family has to endure what too many families in our film endured.

- Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (the filmmakers of A LION IN THE HOUSE)


I am still overwhelmed after seeing the gripping program "A Lion In The House" last evening on our public TV station WSYR. Thank you for this very fine and heart wrenching glimpse into the lives of several children journeying through cancer along with their parents and families. I feel so ALIVE this morning although sleep didn't come easy after viewing it. I commend Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert for making this documentary and PBS for airing it.

Just a foolish question: Why couldn't young Tim get a Make A Wish trip to Disney as he had wanted instead of a trip to Chicago? I know several young cancer patients who made it to Fla practically first class thanks to this wonderful organization.

Thank you a million for this program. I'll never be the same for having seen it and that's a good thing.

Filmmaker Steven Bognar's response:

Dear Monica,

Thank you for your kind words about A LION IN THE HOUSE, and thank you for taking the journey with the kids and families. My name is Steven Bognar, I'm one of the filmmakers of the movie. We greatly appreciate your thoughts on the film.

You asked why Tim didn't get to go to Disneyworld, when in fact many kids DO go there on a special wish trip. This is very perceptive of you of course, and what the film does not say is that Tim had already had his 'special wish' a year or so earlier. Tim's special wish at that time was to receive a computer, which he did and had in his room at home. So this particular wish didn't go through the organization 'Make A Wish' but was instead coordinated by the Cincinnati Children's staff, who contacted McDonalds (tim's employer) about covering the costs for him and his family to go to Chicago for a weekend. McDonalds did this, and Tim and his family had a great weekend (despite his initial reservations). They saw a Chicago Bulls game, we all ate at the Rainforest Cafe, went to the Shedd Aquarium (seen briefly in the film), walked the Miracle Mile, went to the Navy Pier and did a lot more. It was actually a wonderful time.


- Steven Bognar (one of the filmmakers of A LION IN THE HOUSE)


I want to know when did Tim started having cancer coming into his body? When saw the show I was crying about Alex the little girl who died, and also Justin, and Tim. That is really is painful thing to see them struggle everyday. I had a cousin name Katrina who died in 2001, she died of aids. I had lost my father in 2003.

Filmmaker Steven Bognar's response:

Dear Debby,

Thank you for your concern for the young people in A LION IN THE HOUSE. Yes, it is deeply painful to see these kids struggle. We cannot imagine the pain it caused their moms, dads, sisters and brothers. But they showed remarkable, boundless grace in their pain. Someone said it well - these kids redefine courage. I am sorry for your loss of your father and cousin. You had asked when Tim's cancer began. Tim was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1997, though it is hard to say exactly when the cancer began growing in his body.

- Steven Bognar (one of the filmmakers of A LION IN THE HOUSE)

Betsy Wilson
Bellingham Washington

Beautiful show! Why did you leave out the Child Life Services? Were they not there? I see by my 2003 edition the Child Life Council Directory that there were 23 full time Child Life Specialists on the Staff of Cincinnati Childrens Hospital. Have they all been cut for $'s or did you just not see them at work? In case you do not know it, Child Life Specialists are highly trained to work with ill children. They have been a recognized part of the professional pediatric staff of hospitals for over 30 years. If any one can make a difference in pediatric care it is the Child Life Specialist. I am so sorry that this oportunity to educate about the value of Child Life Services was not a part of this first two hours of the show. Thanks again for your work. Sincerely, Betsy Wilson, Masters Degree in The Child In The Health Care Setting.

Filmmaker Steven Bognar's response:

Dear Betsy,

Thanks for writing in about A LION IN THE HOUSE. You make very important points about Child Life Services within Children's Hospitals, and the contribution they make to the care of kids and families. Cincinnati Children's Hospital has terrific Child Life Specialists, who are very involved with the kids in the Hematology and Oncology Services. They do great work. Unfortunately, one of the painful realities of editing 525 hours of raw footage down to a four hour documentary is that many moments, individuals, services, issues, and story-lines did not make it into the final film. We have struggled for years to find the balance between educating the public on all the aspects around childhood cancer and the need to make a compelling, story-oriented documentary which would serve as an entry point for the lay public into this world. We tried our best, and yet many important aspects didn't make the final cut. I'm glad you are making the point here about Child Life Specialists - thank you for making this clear.

- Steven Bognar (one of the filmmakers of A LION IN THE HOUSE)