The Big C: A Few Thoughts

Sexy With Cancer? HMM

I just finished watching Season 1 of Showtime’s “The Big C.” It has been kind of a blast to watch, not what one would expect as the season opens with Cathy, played by a glowing, lovely, and not skinny (thank God) Laura Linney chatting with her oncologist about her situation – she has stage four melanoma, a certain death sentence. But, somehow Cathy is able to maintain more than a stiff upper lip and look absolutely blissful and radiant as she, at the season’s beginning, refrains from telling anyone of her condition and tries to deal. She faces decisions about treatment (at first she opts out), the meaning of her life, including her relationship with her husband, played by the sometimes adorable and often exasperating Oliver Platt, her relationship with her son, who is experiencing a rough hormonal shift into the world of narcissistic adolescence. Her homeless brother is in the picture along with a very sexy affair with the star of “Luther,” played by Idris Elba.

Cathy brings up some of my issues

I can’t wait to continue with Season 2, but here are some of the issues the show brings up – I know I would absolutely collapse under the pressure of that kind of diagnosis and would find it utterly impossible to endure my prognosis of a painful and inevitable death, with a radiant smile that never leaves my face. Cathy makes me get that I’m a coward, a big baby, and would be no fun at all if melanoma was thrown into the mix of the usual stuff of life such as, concerns about aging, sore joints, bills, the world of work and earning a living, and just the grit of life. She is just a better woman, as well as a YOUNGER woman than I.

One way I know this to be true is last week I went to my doctor with what appears to be a skin cancer on my chest and had a biopsy. The doctor’s office called me on Friday to say they got the results, but I didn’t get the message until Saturday – so I got worried and went from A to Z. My mind took me immediately to stage 4 of something fatal, and it wasn’t as fun as Cathy’s stage 4. I won’t ever look like Lora Linney no matter what stage I’m in. Most likely I just have the common and treatable kind of skin cancer that if caught early can be treated and eradicated. My skin cancer does not look like a melanoma so I should chill out, but unlike Cathy, I like to share my concerns with friends and update them on every little bit of news. I don’t just smile through my trials, however trivial, or at whatever magnitude they fall on the emotional Richter scale.

Are women going to feel pressure to be sexy and fight cancer at the same time?

And, Cathy seems to have some things to smile about even with stage 4 melanoma – she has health insurance and a hot young doctor who falls for her, she gets to have a luscious affair with the guy she meets while teaching school – the guy who plays Luther. She even splurges for a full bikini wax for the first time and runs off to the Bahamas to show off her bikini. Although she is estranged from her husband, he still adores her and intends to stick around when she comes clean about the cancer. She is still looking really good and money is no problem.

I don’t know what Season 2 will bring, but I can’t wait. The first season leaves us with a cliff hanger – there is Cathy in her hospital bed with her husband holding her hand, about to receive a brutal cancer treatment that is akin to life threatening torture and offers her little return on investment. But Cathy, so very unlike me, is still smiling that beatific and almost saintly smile, her cheeks are pink, and she is ready to fight and determined to no longer go gently into that good night.


Filed under Our Crazy Beautiful World, Topics I Love

8 responses to “The Big C: A Few Thoughts

  1. It was very interesting reading this, and thought provoking – thank you! I have to say that I think the character of Cathy is actually NOT dealing with her cancer/mortality very well at all. The fact that she is having affairs demonstrates to me that she is very afraid and insecure, and seeking reassurance through sex (away from her best support, her husband, who would be suffering intensely at the thought of losing her). I can understand why she behaves as she does, but to me that doesn’t make her behaviour something to aspire to … I have 2 friends who have undergone serious cancer treatments, and also lost my mother to cancer. They showed/are showing such courage and strength, and that is the kind of beauty I admire. I hope you don’t mind my disagreeing with you, Kartika! And I guess we all deal with life’s hurdles in various ways … I’m one of the ‘tell everyone my problems’ types, and I don’t suffer quietly, so I know my own weakness! I wish you all the best with your prognosis and treatement, too … =D

    • Thanks for sharing this! You know we are actually on the same page – I was being a bit satirical here by poking a bit of fun at Cathy’s whirlwind adventures and her non-stop attempt to projecting happiness – and it seems like a really unrealistic and, as you say, not so healthy way to deal with her illness. Of course, it really hit me this week as I watched the last part of season 1 because it seems so removed from reality – but as a dark comedy it strikes me as very funny. I’ve actually had an allergic reaction to the biopsy (just used a needle)and just broke out in hives on my chest today. Last week I had an allergic reaction that went to my face. Of course, I’m not wearing a smile about it at all! Thanks for your kind wishes! 🙂

      • I’m sure I wouldn’t be smiling either! Hope it clears up really soon. And even though I haven’t seen the series I can see that a dark comedy could be quite a valid way to deal with a serious subject like cancer … Take care, and hope we keep ‘meeting up’! =D

  2. It’s weird that I just read this because I just found out that someone I know has breast cancer. (My grandmother is a survivor, and two of my close friends have lost their mothers to it during high school, too.) I can’t believe how frequently it haunts us and the people we know. What an awful disease! I do think it’s important to look at its effects from different perspectives, though. Thank you for always posting such interesting posts. I hope that everything gets better for you soon!

    • Hi Mamie, it is a horrific disease and the rate is very high – I think we all, as women, feel vulnerable. While watching this, and I’m on Season 2 now, it brings up a lot – one thing is how Cathy seems so atypical of how I see most people responding to this kind prognosis. Also, her circumstances (she has financial resources so many of us in America do not have and she has a husband who is there for her, etc. ) do give her a cushion of support many don’t have. But the show is fiction, of course, and deals with the issue using black humor and it makes me think…thanks for your comments.

  3. can’t do this one. I’ve finished with my cancer and it is too close to watch Cathy. I stopped watching all my favorite hospital tv shows.onward..

    • Hi Carla, I get that. You know a few years ago, after I had my gall bladder removed (and, that is not of course in any way cancer) I could not watch any of my favorite hospital shows either – it’s a if the body is so traumatized by the assault, that all of the impressions get re-enlivened by seeing that stuff on TV – thanks for stopping by. I hope you are doing well with your recovery. Best, Kartika

  4. Ajaytao2010

    I love Cathy very much and you too so beautiful of you to share everything

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