Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Truth About Cancer
Take One Step: A PBS Health Campaign
The Truth About Cancer + Take One Step: A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee  

Watching: The Truth About Cancer

Chapter 2: Cancer 9, Us 1 [7:29]

Linda returns to the hospitals where Larry received care to learn what has changed. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases.

Select123456789101111Next
Windows Media PlayerHigh|Low
QuickTime border=High|Low

Transcript: Chapter 2 - Cancer 9, Us 1

LINDA GARMON: Wait, am I on stand-by? If it's flashing... oh no.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. If, at the point of death, using drugs and electric shock to keep the heart beating, artificially beating - yikes - mechanical breathing, artificial nutrition and hydration, major surgery - I guess we've decided on that anyway - but I suppose they could be following...

NARRATOR: "Cancer is not for sissies." That's the mantra my husband and I would repeat after long, exhausting days at the hospital.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: Invasive diagnostic tests...

NARRATOR: Larry had "mesothelioma..."

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: Blood or blood products, antibiotics...

NARRATOR: ...a melodic-sounding name for a terrible cancer.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: ... we've decided the word "coma" comes out of that. Right?

NARRATOR: One night, I tried to film him filling out a "health care proxy," his directives about what he would accept or decline if something went terribly wrong with his treatments. But this was before I knew how to mount a camera steadily on a tripod.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: If I am in a coma or persistent vegetative state, and, in the opinion of my physician and several consultants, have no known hope of regaining awareness and higher mental functions, no matter what is done, then my wishes regarding the use of the following types of treatment, defined above, [cough] considered medically reasonable, would be. Alright.

LINDA GARMON: What? Oh! [laughs] What happened?

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: Sit where your head's going to be.

LINDA GARMON: Okay. Where did...where my head should be. You'll be here. [laughs] You should say you have four scenarios, and for each of these scenarios, we have to decide legally for which ones you withhold what treatments, and give what treatments. Am I in the shot? [laughs]

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: God knows. You have to kiss on camera [kiss]. We should at least have a kiss before we determine what happens to my life.

NARRATOR: It would be six full years after Larry died before I could watch these tapes--six years before I could allow myself to remember how Larry's illness was so incongruous with how safe I felt by his side.

LARRY D'ONOFRIO: ...that's why you have other people direct.

FAITH MIDDLETON: I'm Faith Middleton and this show is about the richness of life. In this year alone, 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer.

JACQUES CARTER: But how, how you feeling? You feeling alright?

SCOTT WEBSTER: Yeah, I mean, I'm certainly concerned, it's on my mind, I think about it a lot.

ATIF ABDULMALIK: Do you want him here for a month, two months, three months?

GEORGE DEMETRI: I think it depends on which direction we go. In the United States the most common causes of cancer death are due to lung cancer, colon and rectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, as well as blood cancers, like leukemias and lymphomas.

DAVID RYAN: You walk in the door, you come in, and you sit down across from me, and you go, "I have stomach cancer." The first question is: can you cure me? Right? So, as the - as the doc, your first obligation is to say, "Can I cure this patient?"

DAVID NATHAN: I started out in the cancer field fifty years ago, and it was pretty much of a nightmare because we didn't really understand anything about cancer. We didn't know what caused it.

NARRATOR: On the six-year anniversary of my husband's death, I returned to the hospitals in Boston where he had received his care. This is a group of hospitals linked to Harvard University, and it includes some of the top ten cancer centers in the country. I returned here to ask where we are in the war on cancer--and to live among patients, their families, and doctors, until I could find some answers.

JAMIE KLAYMAN: Hello.

ABBYE WARREN: Hi.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: So how's it going?

JAMIE KLAYMAN: It's going.

ABBYE WARREN: It's going.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: It's going. One day at a time.

JAMIE KLAYMAN: Yeah, one day at a time, that's right.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: That's all you can do, right, get through today.

JAMIE KLAYMAN: Yep, that's what it's about.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: And what is, so what did Dr. Ryan say...

JOANNE PACELLA: Alright. So again, this is just saline. I just want to flush this one more time. In the position that you're in...

JAMIE KLAYMAN: I just was diagnosed, you know, with pancreatic cancer, the end of March into the beginning of April.

JOANNE PACELLA: All right, we're going to step out. We're going to take the images. Just listen for the breathing instructions, Jamie.

JAMIE KLAYMAN: I wasn't feeling great, would have a funny kind of pain in my stomach. I remember that first meeting with the doctor. They kind of mentioned that it is, unfortunately, one of the least treatable, or the least successfully treatable kind of diseases--that the numbers unfortunately weren't in my favor. It's sort of an uphill battle as far as finding something that would, you know, be what we like to think of as a home run.

JOANNE PACELLA: Alrighty. We're all done. Put your arms back down, Jamie.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: So how are you feeling about the CT scan? Are you a little anxious?

JAMIE KLAYMAN: Well I see some... I try not to focus on it, 'cause it--though, you know, definitely that's, there's some--there's nothing that I can do about that. You know, I don't want to get myself crazy.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: And then, go from there, and, "what do I have to do next?"

JAMIE KLAYMAN: And go from there, and what's next.

LORRAINE NAZZARO: Yup.

GEORGE DEMETRI: If you could explain that to them I bet they would be willing to put up with...

CHRIS FLETCHER: No, you can't find it.

GEORGE DEMETRI: Yes, I haven't seen - I really haven't seen you in that seat in a long time. This is kind of fun.

SUZANNE GEORGE: I just want to - we do have one other case, other than what's on the list, I need a lot of help...

CHRIS FLETCHER: Alright, we have two other cases.

JAMES BUTRYNSKI: Well, PC is a 22 year-old female who, a year and a half ago, presented with a mass in her right calf that was, uh, eventually biopsied and resected, and shortly after that, in November of 2006, she presented with, uh, headaches and had multiple brain mets.

GEORGE DEMETRI: Cancer is many, many, many different diseases...

GEORGE DEMETRI: ...probably hundreds of different diseases, and what links them together is the abnormalities in cancer cells, where they grow uncontrollably, and they can spread or migrate or metastasize through the body, and they basically gum up the normal workings of the body.

JAMES BUTRYNSKI: We repeated her brain MRI, and she did have brain findings - we didn't have the old one to compare but recently we got the old one -- so she basically has a new left, parietal met.

GEORGE DEMETRI: For patients, once the cancer has spread distantly through the body, the outcomes can be really grim. Less than one patient out of ten would survive five years for most of the common cancers once they've already spread.

CHRIS FLETCHER: ...form spindle cell neoplasm.

GEORGE DEMETRI: So where are we with cancer? I think it has been you know cancer nine, us one.

CHRIS FLETCHER: The commonest age to develop these is between 15 and 25, and like eighty-five percent of them are dead by the time they're 40. You're seeing all patients who are here because they've developed metastatic disease - they've spread; lots of these things are relatively untreatable. There's no chemotherapy that works in these tumors. And modern cancer care never discusses the fact that you don't win very often.

Back to Top

A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee
Watch Take One Step: A Conversation About Cancer with Linda Ellerbee >

Help support programs and websites like this one.
Pledge to your local public station.

_