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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I watched both night's of this incredible film and as a 39 year old white guy that is suppose to be so tough and strong...I found myself weak in my knees and in my heart for these amazing kids.
I cried like a baby as i watched each one of them struggle to survive....I was really touched by Tim and how much he wanted out of life and how afraid he was when he got toward the end. To see a film like this just makes you understand how precious life really is.
I wish I could have just held everyone of those kids in my arm's and told them it was going to be ok.

Syracuse NY

I happened to turn on the TV by chance and saw it was an Independent Lens program. I usually enjoy them so I started to watch. What a powerful experience. The children and their families faced something I can't even fathom. It made me cry for the people in the film, as well as the possibility that anyone in my life, including myself and my children could be in such a battle. It made me question what my decisions would be, what I would want. I was particularly touched by Tim, because things were so hard in his life and he still had such spark. And it was difficult to see that spark fading as the disease persisted, and for him to be alone and scared, and his mother unable to give or unsure of what he needed. I was also inspired by Al and Regina and the amazing relationship that they had. They are lucky to have each other. This provided a broad view...from the children and families to their friends and the doctors, nurses and support staff who surrounded them. I especially admired Dr. Huang who said that people don't leave pediatric oncology because children die, they stay because they die...and he also said that it is not something that he gets used to, and if he does...it is time for a new profession. Wow. Excellent work to the filmmakers, and best wishes to those in the film, and anyone else experiencing this.

lisa brown
philadelphia, pa

I watched the incredible documentary and was moved to tears. Even as I sit here typing during my lunch hour at work, the tears roll. Similar to every viewer, I rooted for Justin, Alex, Tim, Al and Jen. I knew according to the program description that some of the children would not survive, still I was desperately hoping, perhaps it was a typo. I feel deep sadness that the world has lost such loving, warm, courageous, gentle, young spirits so prematurely. It is truly a loss for humanity. I want to thank PBS for airing the program, the filmmakers and the families for sharing their stories and their brave children with the rest of the world. The caregivers at the hospital were awesome. I was particularly touched by Tim's main nurse and her husband's relationship/bond with the family. May God bless you both.

Each story was inspiring and deeply touching. I will never forget any of the children or their families. I feel blessed to have watched them walk through the most difficult time in their lives, with such grace, dignity and love. I am thankful that Al and Jen survived. I pray for their continued remission. It deeply saddens me that Tim's wish to visit Disneyworld was not realized for merely financial reasons. Such a seemingly simple request for such an inspirational young man. I am a simple middle class woman myself, but I would have gladly put the trip on my credit card for Tim and Marietha. I wish I could have had the opportunity to be that support system Marietha so desperately needed.

Thank you PBS for making us aware, and therefore giving the viewers the opportunity to be better people. I am going to get involved with the outreach links to see if and how I can be a part of making those last dreams come true for other suffering children.

God bless all the featured families, and the many more families going through this that will never been known to the public. I pray for you all.

Stacey Musgrave
Lakemore, Oh

Me and my husband watched the whole film and were and still are deeply moved by these families and the courageous children we seen. I have never seen kids so brave and loving as these featured in the film. To all the families god bless each and everyone of you!!!!!! I know that those sweet, wonderful children that passed are watching over all of us and their families. Live each day with love and never forget the fight they fought. We need a cure and we have got to pull together to get one. The families should be honored to have had their children portrayed the way they were sweet, brave, wonderful, and thoughtful. Be proud of these kids and those like them struggling. Those kids make each and every one of us think a little differently. Hold on to the ones you love for as long as you can and don't give up on hope!!!! These children never did once not even once!!!!! Their spirit lives on in us all!!!!!! GOD BLESS THE LITTLE CHILDREN ALL THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD!!!!!! RED AND YELLOW BLACK AND WHITE THEY ARE PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD!!!!!!


In 2003 I made a short documentary about a young man who was living in an RV park with his family, while he was recovering from a bone marrow transplate. I watched the first part of the series, then emailed the family to tell them about the pbs program. Sadly, today his mom emailed me back saying they had lost their son - after four years of battling cancer. What an impact all of these stories have had on me. What an important piece of work these filmmakers have done. And thank you PBS for broadcasting such a program and connecting all these people.

Malinda Wilson
Oklahoma City, OK

LION IN THE HOUSE was so poignant and uplifting - the families were all so brave and the filmmakers' dedication to the kids and the medical personnel move me to write and say thank you. I agree with another writer who stated this is reality TV - I am so glad I took the time to watch both nights. I'll never forget those five amazing children and I pray their families know how much we all admire and pray for them.

Westfield, NJ

I am a 28 year old single woman with no children. This film gave me a glimpse as to what a parent's love for their child feels like more than anything Hospice caregivers should receive special recognition for their insight and regard for each child's spirit and dignity.

Brooklyn, NY

Watching the movie was like getting into a time machine and going back to the days, when the most gut-wrenching experience of my life came - my Mom's battle with thyroid cancer. She's my hero, we are blessed with twelve years of remission, she continues to inspire others with her amazing story of endurance, strength and sheer force of will.

My heart goes out to the families.

haines city, fl

I really loved the show... I was so inspired by it. To see those kids have so much courage and bravery tought me alot!!! it tought me never to give up!!! Tims story was one of my favorite because he never showed that he was scared. He kept his head up and was so determined to make it. I cried all threw the show, even after the show i had tears in my eyes and im not use to cryin. So to the families of the kids that passed remeber they will always be with you at heart, after seeing the show I know they will ALWAYS be in mine... To the survivers keep your head up. Stay strong!!!

J Glynn
Milwaukee, WI

Lion In The House - what a GREAT but heart wrenching piece of documentry film making! I cried throughout all four hours of the show and was brought back to my father's last days before his death from lung cancer when I heard the rattling in Tims chest as he struggle to breath towards the end of his life. I din't from expect from the first 2 hours that he'd die. I was devastated when I saw that Alex died, I was so hoping that the blood tranfusion from her father would work. I Just hope Justin, Alex and Tim are all in a better place, but knowing that people here on Earth are still mourning them.
My thoughts go out to the parents of each of these five children and thank them for letting US see everything they went through - regardless if it was during the good and bad time. Good luck to Al, Jen and Julia in the upcoming years.

Yolanda Jones
Union City, Georgia

Thanks. My heart was shattered last night. Unfortunately, I didn't see part 1. Tim is still on my mind. Thanks for allowing me in these families lives. Your series has opened my eyes. I sobbed when he died. Its like I knew him personally. I feel so sad. I have learned to cherish my children everyday even when they are being "challenging". I decided to volunteer. Again, thanks for opening my eyes to childhood cancer and the journey so many families are taking.

Loveland, CO

I just happened to be flipping through the channels last night when the show caught my eye. I work for a local non-profit Hospice and I was brought to tears by these kids and their families. I think Tim's story touched me the most. What a remarkable young man he was. As a new mother, I wept liked I never knew I could for these kids. I was touched too by the passage that Dr. Arceci read. Does anyone remember the name of the book that was from. May God bless all those that are going through what these families went though.


My daughter is now 25 years old. She was disagnosed with Hodgkins Disease at 3 years old and relapsed at 7 years old. She went through different regimens of chemo and extensive painful testing. I can tell you the treatment is sometimes far worse than the disease. It is indeed torture. Watching your child be ravaged by the side effects of the treatment is heartbreaking. Next week, my daughter goes in for 3 days of outpatient testing to see if she is eligible to be placed on the list for a lung transplant. I can't help but believe that her lung damage and disease are a long term side effect from all of the drugs and damage from the disease and treatment. This film was so necessary and so devastating at the same time. I began watching, believing that the kids would all survive and I would be encouraged. In each story, I saw parts of my family's own story. I cannot believe that the United States with all of the resources available, etc. have not made further strides toward cures for every type of cancer. I have had two sleepless nights, tossing, turning, reliving this nightmare, feeling these families pain. I told myself yesterday that I should not watch the second part. However, I was drawn to this film. I feel it is a must see for every parent. Hug your children and count your blessings!!


I'm a pretty tough cookie and don't usually cry at sad movies - in fact, I'm not all that crazy about kids - but I broke down and wept for these poor children and their families... Maybe it's just me, but I sensed a little too much eagerness to "embrace death" and get it over with on the part of some of these doctors (and even, chillingly, family members). Alex absolutely broke my heart, as did her dad who obviously loved her so deeply. Not sure what went on with Justin; he was in remission, yet all these debilitating and experimental treatments were imposed upon him by a doctor who was on her way out the door? As for Tim, how tragic! That kid could've had a career in entertainment; brilliant, funny, and charismatic; the heart of a lion. How many kids - even healthy ones - are willing to take a job at McDonald's these days? Yet he died alone (in his last cognizent days) and frightened, slowly suffocating to death; what could be more frightening? It angered me that that entire extended family, even the preacher, who were so grief-stricken at the deathbed and funeral were nowhere to be seen in the weeks preceding this when Tim really needed them most. People should realize that they don't need you at the funeral; they've already moved on. I was also sorry he didn't have a more compassionate doctor nor got to Disneyland (I'd have sent him myself, or rather gone with him because he seemed like a ton of fun.) Overall, I was simply moved beyond words. Thank you, producers, families, and PBS, for knocking us out of our everyday complacency now and then; you need to do so more often. Absolutely rivetting and what public television is all about.

Mary Hubbell
Fisher, Illinois

Thank you so much for FINALLY showing the world what our families experience. As the mother of a 13 year old cancer survivor, I found the film to be SO geniune, by far the best representation of the pediatric cancer experience from every possible angle. My daughter could not watch, she was too traumatized, but I plan to order the DVD for her so that some day, when she is ready, she can watch the film and in some way validate her experience. GOD BLESS the filmmakers. You did a wonderful, wonderful job.
Mary Hubbell
Mom to Katy Hubbell

Dallas, TX

I am very impressed with this series: the issues the film covers and the sensitive manner in which this delicate time in people's lives is handled. I just completed a nursing school class called Death and Dying (End of Life Issues) which covered the same issues in theory. This film is a must see for nursing students.

My heartfelt thanks to the families for allowing us into their lives for the betterment of others and thank you to the film makers for having the vision and fortitude to complete this.

David McMullen
Westland, Mi.

I stumbled upon A Lion in the House on Thursday. I thought it ironic, since an oddly shaped mole was removed from my 14 year old daughter on Monday. The docter is pretty sure that it is a form of skin cancer. I lost both of my parents to cancer and the film did a great job of showing the audience the courage and hope that all of us have in us. Please give donations so that valuable research can be done.God Bless to all the families that cancer touches.


I have not cried or felt as much emotion through a film in my life. I am so grateful to the families and the filmakers that made this program possible. I am touched forever. The moment in the film that evoked hope for me was when Tim went to Chicago. He really seemed happy and at peace. He enjoyed it even though he did not want to go at first. I felt joy to see him laugh. Thank You

Meg Senecal
Liverpool, NY

I may be at work, but my thoughts are consumed with your program last night. What has stayed with me the most is Alex's laughter/joy at 'going home' and not realizing why. My life will never be the same---cancer hasn't touched any one of us, and I have learned the importance of enjoying every single moment of my and my young children's lives. My prayers now include your courageous children.

julie weaver
Irvine, CA

Thank you for such a profoundly touching film. I watched Part I and watched Part II. Each family (parents and children)demonstrated amazing heroism. I love these people for their strength and their love for each other. I am including the medical staff as well. They were incredibly caring people. What did I learn? I learned that there are caring, unassuming people in the world fighting tremendously difficult battles. You are heroes.

Atlanta, GA

I have been a volunteer at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in the AFLAC Cancer Center since I was 15 years old. The doctors, nurses, and child life specialists there are absolutely amazing people, and their committment to children is astounding. I just graduated from college, and seeing this film reminded me again of my deep desire to continue working with this population. Like so many others, I was moved to tears numerous times throughout the film. A Lion in the House does not shy away from showing the most difficult parts of the struggle with childhood cancer--from the doctor's, nurse's, family's, and child's perspectives. I was especially moved by Tim's nurse's committment to him. My goal is to one day work in art therapy with children and teenagers with chronic illnesses. Art making is a powerful tool for healing and gives children a way to express what may not be able to be verbalized. Thank you, PBS, for showing this film and for providing a rich resource on your website for further information and a place to express reactions and give feedback. Thank you to the filmmakers and families for your incredible strength and for renewing my commmittment to sharing the healing power of creative work with this very special population.

dawn leigh
New York NY

Tim is one of the most amazing people. I am a three time cancer survivor who had forgotten how to celebrate every day. Tim's grace, excitment, positive outlook and drive has inspired me deeply. I thank God for his time on this earth.

Lithia SPrings, Georgia

I watched "A Lion in the House". I watched the first episode and did not want to watch the 2 episode. Somehow, I was able to watch the 2nd episode-with tears. My heart goes out to the families of these children. I felt for all of them because I lost my brother to cancer.

We are family who knew nothing about cancer. We didn't read on up on it. We were hit out of the blue. Mistakes were made regarding is care. I just wish I knew then what I know now.

I wished his doctors where like some of these doctor. You may not agree with the way they tell some of the parents that there is nothing else they can do for their child. They are really telling them the truth. Please believe me when I say the doctors do not want to give up. Sometimes it becomes hopeless.

I take off my hats to all cancer survivors and wish them the best life has to offer.

Please believe me when I say the doctors and nurses are awesome. They care about their patients and yes they do come to the funerals. Iknow because they were at my brothers' funeral.

Jeanette Hammel
Indianapolis, IN

I was changing channels at 9pm and came upon 'A Lion in the House'...what an inspirational documentary. I was spell bound as I watched both segments on the 21st and 22nd.
What courageous families, both children and parents. What awesome medical staff...the compassion they showed.
I cried when they cried and rejoiced when they rejoiced. I kept thinking why am I watching this? I'm sure the reason will be revealed to me soon.
Thank you for honest and revealing stories of what children and their families go through as they battled the ugly disease of cancer. Truly appreciated!

Richard Wolk, MD (Ret.)
Fresno, CA

Here are some further thoughts after seeing the second half of your Lion film. It was important to show that clinicians in the field of oncology are never dealing with a full deck. Clinical expertise and judgment help us to play the cards in the most effective, humane way possible for each individual patient. Still misjudgments can be made, either out of perceptions clouded by emotion or ignorance of what has been tried before despite a wealth of scientific information at our fingertips. Your film discretely shows this.

Communication skills in dealing with patients and families of various levels of medical sophistication and emotional turmoil are a challenge for most clinicians--especially those early in their career. Your film adroitly alludes to this.

I felt that the film dwelled disproportionately on on the frustration, torment, sorrow, and suffering experienced by the patients and their families, although that was the reality in these chosen cases. Nevertheless, the effect of the crucible of cancer care was well represented. The joys of forged relationships derived from this crucible may have been underdeveoped though not ignored by your film. Bereavement was realistically portrayed. Again I commend you for producing such a poignant, complex film on childhood cancer.

Kevin Carlini
Pleasant Gap, PA

One of the most moving and emotionally draining documentaries I have witnessed. I watched while at the same time reading to my 2 1/2 year old son. My emotions ran over more than a few times.

Children are the greatest gift in life......healthy children are a blessing.


I got so involved in the families and couldn't stop watching the program. It was hard to see them get the news of another set back, but I was constantly amazed at the strength of the parents, and the fight that each child had within them. It made me want to be a better person. When Tim talked about becoming a doctor or social worker someday so that he could just help people. You could see in his eyes that he was wise beyond his years and the goodness within him was so bright and true. I could see why Justins family fought the battle with him for so long. I have two boys and a girl who are the same ages that Justin was throughout the documentary. My kids got to do the everyday things Justin dreamed of doing. I wanted Justin to walk out of the hospital and kick a football, or sit around a camp fire or just walk to school. Alex really deserved to win the prize at camp for the biggest personality. What a gem. I could see that the whole family had that positive outlook on life and I'm sure Alex's sisters are benefitting from having such wonderful parents to guide them. I went online this morning and read that all three of these precious children have passed away. The families have given the gift of their stories to us and I will remember them forever.

Erie, PA

My daughter was born with a club foot and was treated at the Cleveland Clinic. There we saw many, many children ill with cancer, walking the halls, dressed in their street clothes, dragging their IV poles behind them and smiling, when it seemed impossible that they could have the strength to do so. At the time, it made me realize how incredible lucky we were only to have a club foot. Last night's show was a reminder of what I saw at the Cleveland Clinic, some 20 years ago, and how very important it is to become involved. I was inspired by the fact that these families shared their lives; when I've found myself afraid to ask questions, afraid to hear the answers. This documentary opened many doors for understanding and the importance of cancer research, volunteering and contributing.

Mary Darling

I, too, was overwhelmed by A Lion in the House, Part I and II. It surely is an award-winning production. Our family has recently experience deaths of too many adults (58, 61, 64, 91 years of age, etc.) with cancer. We learned about the processes of making decisions about treating or not treating cancer, and the importance of hospice care. My wish would be that our society could talk more openly and more lovingly about "dying" and "death," be more accepting of the end of life. It is very hard, it seems, for all of us, family, friends, and professionals, to say those words. I am sure "A Lion in the House" will help all of us do that. Thank you, the children, the families, and medical professionals for this magnificent work.

Debbie Alimentato
Rochester, NY

Our son Sam was 15 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in November of 1999. He fought with all of his strength to live after enduring chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants. His big brother Joe was his donor.

This film brought all the memories back that we all had to deal with. Sam did everything that the doctors told him to do because he wanted to get better. He endured so much pain and he is our hero.

I could relate so much to Tim. He was about the same age as Sam. My heart broke that he was alone in the hospital so often. I was glad to see Tim's nurse advocate for him.

Sam's website is: http://www.samalimentato.homestead.com/greenribbon.html

There is another good website for teens who have cancer. It is:

Brooklyn, NY

I sweated and wept for hours watching this film.I had to take a cold shower, go on a long walk and to a bar after watching it. I couldn't sit at home. It was disgusting watching Tim die. I didn't know there was a part two tonight, I don't know if I am going to watch it. It was hard.

Ann McDonald

I was profoundly moved by the strength of the children and their families in the film and incredibly impressed with the film-making.

I imagine that the filmmakers must have become almost members of these children's families. How else could they make the camera disappear and make the film so intimate? They also did a wonderful job of revealing the commonality as well as the differences among the families.

This morning, I have in my mind the image of Tim smiling and playing on the shores of Lake Michigan with his family. I hope I can carry that image with me for a long time because it embodies beauty and love and hope and joy....life. I don't think I've ever seen a child anymore beautiful than that boy.

orenthias smith
atlanta ga


Machelle Crow
Fort Hood TX

I wanted to give my feed back about this documentary. We just lost our son to cancer in December. He battled 2 forms of cancer for almost 11 years. This documentary was wonderful in showing what we as parents go through as well as what the children go through not just physically but mentally as well. It also touched on the medical profession's struggles as well. This is an excellent documentary. I have already recommended it to so many people. I would like to thank those parents for allowing everyone to walk through a little of their journey with them.

Pam P.

This film was amazing to say the least. The bravery and courage that each child had, the strength - it was beyond anything I would have ever thought. God bless them all. To be honest, I felt some anger towards Tim's mother - I could not believe what he was going thru - and had to go thru it mostly on his own - all alone. Thank God for his nurses and doctors. I know everyone handles things differently - I am very glad that towards the end his mom finally came thru for him, but I still think she should have been there for him all along. I cried so many times throughout both parts - Alex was a beautiful little girl who reminds me so much of my daughter - who thank God - is healthy, as are my other children. This film captures so much raw emotion - it's truly a gem. Thank you for having the insight to know that something like this needed to be filmed and seen by millions to show what happens when a child is sick. Thank you

Nalani Koch
Honolulu, Hawaii

Cancer does not discriminate. Anyone can get cancer. My daughter was diagnosed with Non-hodgkin's Lymphoma at 21months of age. After 2 years of treatment, she is now in remission and a healthy happy 6 year old.
I had a really difficult time watching this film, because it brought back many painful memories from my own experience.
Children battling cancer are heros. They are role models for all of us. Even with a life threatning illness, never do you hear them complain and only did you see them smile.

Melodee Hilderbrant
Sabina, Ohio

I know one of the families that was on your show. I have learned so much by watching this. The children are all fighters and fight till the end. With Justin, you can guess and try to do what is best, but as a parent, you always know your child. His mother knew more about her son, than any doctor. She knew what he was feeling and how he would do. She told the doctors. She was right. Little Jen is a survivor. None of the children asked about dying. I would love to see more shows like this. We never know when this could happen to us. I lost a very dear friend at the age of 20 to this cancer. She just thought she had the flu. Her personal outlook never changed. You are great. What an education.

tondelaya jackson

I thought A LION IN THE HOUSE was great. I never thought it would make me cry but it was very interesting to the point where I had to get on my computer and comment on it. my favorite part was Timothy, I never thought he was going to die in the end. I'm looking forward to watching more of it. I learned a lot from that show. It makes me want to hold my child all the time and spend more time with my family. You never know when the person you love can leave the earth. That makes me just want to cherish every moment like its my last.

Thank you so much for making something such an important and sad video. GOD BLESS YOU

Baton Rouge, La

I am a nurse and have been for just over a year. For the duration of nursing school, my heart was set on becoming a pediatric oncology nurse. Due to lack of open positions, I became a pediatric burn nurse, and while I absolutely love burn care, this program reignited my passion of caring for children with cancer and their families. I am incredibly inspired by the medical staff, families and especially the courageous children in this program. After watching part I of this program last night, I decided that I would look into changing my area of care. Watching part II, I've decided that pediatric oncology is where I can best utilize my care. I can't say enough about how much this program has touched me. Thank you for the inspiration, and the beautiful dedication to these children, their families, and caregivers.


Now, this is what 'reality' TV should be about. Thank you for making this film. It is an important work and destined to change people's thinking. I appreciated seeing the diversity of the families economically and ethnically. It shows how will, strength, and courage can be in us all. I often turned away from the hospital procedures, but forced myself to watch, this is real. Both my sons are in their 20's and healthy. I will never take that for granted again. As a teacher, I will keep this program in mind in case a student at school is suffering from a serious disease. It will help me to understand the depth and complexity that children and their families face.
Thanks to you all for allowing us to enter your lives, and grow from your experience.


I cried the whole time, as I watched. I relize that even as a major power in the world we have the poorest support system for families. I don't think that one single family should feel finicial hard ship when dealing with the medical needs of the most importain people in the world. I am a firm believer that if you are poor you will not recieve proper care until it is too late. It is at that point that as doctors they feel that they have to make a good show.


I cried the whole time, as I watched. I relize that even as a major power in the world we have the poorest support system for families. I don't think that one single family should feel finicial hard ship when dealing with the medical needs of the most importain people in the world. I am a firm believer that if you are poor you will not recieve the best care until it is too late.

Madison, WI

I would like to give a BIG THANKS to all of the patient's, families, medical staff and film crew that have made this documentary happen. I am soooo glad that I came across this program yesterday. Being a mother myself I was truly touched by everyone and it has given me a different perspective on life. I was truly sadden by the ending but I know that it is reality and not some tv show that is made up of actors. My heart was touched by the strength of all the families. I think I have cried on and off through both parts. Happy and sad tears were rolling. I just wanted to scoop everyone up and give them all the love I had. I know this is not possible but watching this film really makes you think about life and how precious it is. So many people take life for granted and focus on what they want and not what they already have. I know in my heart that what I am feeling now is nothing compared to what they have gone through but I belive that we all just had a really close look and we could all learn from them. I belive they (Justin, Tim & Alex) are looking down at us right now and are happy that they have touched so many people. They problem didn't even realize what this film will do for some people. Thanks you again for making this film possible and for opening up your lives for all of us to see. My heart has truly been touched!