Cancer and The Big “O”

Michelle:  While researching The Young Invincibles we noticed that sex and body image issues are unique when it comes to the YA cancer scene. Whether or not settling down or starting a family are in future plans, young adulthood is the socially designated period for “fun sex” (as opposed to “awkward learning sex” or “routine maintenance sex”) and searching for potential (romantic, life, sex) partners. Developmentally and culturally speaking, the 20’s and 30’s are a perpetual open mating season, a time to romp and frolic in fields of love and genitalia while in your “prime.”

Adding cancer to that mix causes some intriguing side effects and one question tops all the other ones. Many YA cancer survivors feel like it’s a betrayal, the body being destroyed just as it’s expected to be at its physical peak. While the loss of a breast or testicle can surely knock sexuality off kilter, the ways people deal with and express themselves when faced with such circumstances are continually amazing. The Scar Project is jaw-droppingly moving and empowering for viewers and participants alike. If you happen to live in the NYC area you should definitely check out the exhibition.

Our friends over at Babeland recently posted on their Facebook:  “Sex Tips for Cancer Survivors.” Get inspiration from erotica and porn if your familiar ways of getting off aren’t working. Be open to new ideas and don’t judge yourself for what you respond to.

Ms. Selin Caka, sex therapist in training, wrote a fantastic post about positive cancer + sex, pointing out that being forced to deal with the physiological implications of cancer can lead to a new found openness about one’s body and sense of sensuality. In a recent chat with her, Caka went on to say, “If someone’s suffering through chemo, or looks in the mirror every day and hates what they see, living in their skin can feel awful. Sex is a great way to remind us how amazing our bodies can make us feel. Even if it’s solo, a good orgasm can change the color of the world for a while, and that can be powerful medicine.” Check out her blog at Chakabox.com.

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The Wild Road to Filmmaking

Michelle:  Behind most indie films you’ll find a unique story of how each one came to be made. Inspiration and a strong will can pave a highly effective road, usually full of bizarre twists and harrowing turns. To the public (and sometimes friends and family!) the filmmaking journey can seem like a series of completely insane and random decisions but, in truth, those crazy choices make perfect sense to the filmmaker.

For example, Robert Rodriguez sold his body to science to fund the making of his debut film El Mariachi, which he later turned into the Antonio Banderas hit Desperado. Creators of the 2008 cult classic The Foot Fist Way, Jody Hill and Danny McBride, tried to make it in LA but moved back home to North Carolina where they applied for as many credit cards as they could, promptly maxed them out, then borrowed money from Jody’s brother to complete their film. Risky? Sure. But the payoff was quite worth it.

So, what of the The Young Invincibles? Sarah and Aaron were living and working as actors in New York City when a March meeting lead to a December proposal (fyi – she said yes). Some casual conversations and personal experience turned into a solid idea for a feature film, a story they wanted to tell. The next year was spent working and planning for the wedding while doing research for the film. In an effort to slow things down and focus on the script, Sarah and Aaron left the city that never sleeps for the sleepy little town of Avon, North Carolina. Living off their savings, they spent several months in a house by the beach to write (and rewrite) the script that would become The Young Invincibles.

They decided to stay on the beach for the summer to put together the business and production plan for the film (which you can read about here). To pay the bills, Aaron worked as a wild horse tour guide, a waiter, and a wedding caterer while Sarah also worked catering jobs and founded a wedding cake stand company (check it out here).

In the diverse world of independent films, there isn’t one way to make a movie. There’s no corporate ladder or trade apprenticeship hierarchy to climb until mastery is achieved. Some movie makers attempt to work their way up the entertainment food chain in Hollywood or New York City, while others spend years saving up enough money in the cubical army to finally have the freedom to work on a personal project. But, in the end, every filmmaker must set out on their own movie-making trail, blindly and doggedly following their inspiration no matter where it takes them.

F*ck Cancer and F*cking With Cancer

Michelle: October means mulled wine, spiced cider, piles of golden leaves, and pumpkin flavored…everything! Perhaps you already know that October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month, but did you know it is also National Family Sex Education month?

Whimsical, refreshing, glycerin & paraben-free!

We bring this up because sex and boobies are two very important things in life that cannot be neglected despite the generally sombering affects of cancer. Organizations such as Save the Ta-Tas bring a provocative and flirty edge to cancer awareness and early detection for young females, reminding gals that having cancer doesn’t mean losing their sexiness and sexuality. Taking it a step further is the wondrous Babeland, a female-owned sex toy shop (based in Seattle!), and the all-natural lubricant developer Squlid. Together they’ve created a tasty Pink Lemonade flavored lube in honor of October awareness/research causes, and also the gentle reminder that getting it on promotes health and wellness! Proceeds go to the Young Survival Coalition.

Next in shaking up awareness: Fuck Cancer. Their mission is explained best on their homepage as “a movement to change the way cancer is perceived and diagnosed in our society, and how cancer survivors perceive themselves. It’s about early detection and treatment. It’s about fighting back and regaining control. It’s about sharing your story and spreading the word.”

The Young Invincibles applaud this mission, and love seeing how the attention to cancer awareness is changing over the last 25 years. We are excited that our film will be adding such vivid dimension to the voice of the young adult cancer community.

 

Facts (Part III): Friends, Family, Health, and Considering Cancer

Michelle:  Part of being a young adult is the freedom for so many recreational activities, healthy and otherwise. I happen to live in Seattle, where summers arrive late but are gloriously sunny, warm, and lush. From July to late September there’s no trace of the dreary skies and constant piss-mist-drizzle (aka mizzle) most people associate with Seattle. Free time is spent with friends: hiking, camping, playing drunken badminton, going out to a free outdoor music festivals, enjoying ourselves and each other.

It's all fun and games until you find precancerous cells on your cervix

If my best friend became constantly drained and sickly after a few weeks of beach volley ball during the day and heavy drinking and dancing at night, would I think for even a moment that she might have cancer? Probably not.

Consider Cancer.

Did you know that despite a patient with textbook symptoms, many doctors don’t even consider cancer in young adults?

Nah, no way a strong, nubile 19-year-old could have lymphoma. Fatigue and night sweats with an occasional fever? Probably nothing. And besides, those tests will cost a pretty penny.

For most physicians cancer is damn near unthinkable for a 22-year-old, so by the time cancer is diagnosed the disease is often at stage 3 or 4… Shit, if only the doctor had bothered to run a few more tests a while back.

So, What Can I Do?

Don’t skimp out on annual physical exams. If colon or cervical cancer runs in your family, don’t be afraid to get your nethers checked by a professional. Encourage your sisters, cousins, and girlfriends to get yearly pap smears. Also, fellas shouldn’t be shy about helping his lady with breast examinations!

Most of all: Justifying spending the money for something that’s “probably nothing”  would definitely be worth it, especially if an early-stage disease is found. If you or a loved one have persisting health problems, urge that a doctor run more tests. You can afford to be careful when it comes to health.

The Facts (Part II): Organizations that Help

Michelle: Imagine you are a 20-year-old university student. Or maybe you’re 25 with a steady job, or perhaps 32 and just laid off after being with the same company for 7 years. An annual exam finds cancer and you think:

– Will I have to quit school?

– Will my meager medical insurance be enough?

– What will my girlfriend think?

– How do I even bring this up to the boy I’ve only been dating for 2 months?

– What will my boss say?

– What if I can’t get pregnant?

– Holy crap, I have midterms coming up.

– This is going to scare the bejeezus out of my parents.

– My sister is going to freak the eff out.

– What if I can’t work 40 hours a week anymore? Will my company fire me?

– Why now? I can’t afford to skip out on job interviews because of hospital tests.

– Will anyone even want to hire someone with cancer?

Young adults with cancer are a very unique group. Even the term “young adult” a state of transition into being a real Grown Up, whether it be school, career, or love life. Many at this age are still figuring things out, are newly financially independent, don’t necessarily have long-term partners or solid support networks. The student loans are still fresh. Settling down is either in the works or being purposely avoided.

Who wants to hire, or even help a 20 or 30-something with cancer in this flailing economy?

Many doctors and cancer treatment organizations are either unaware or simply don’t take the time to share information specifically catered to young adults with cancer. Thankfully, there are many wonderful resources out there that will gladly take on that important task! For example…

I’m Too Young For This was founded by young adult cancer survivors, and their mission is to aid, support, connect, and give a voice to this largely neglected community. i2y.com has a plethora of coping information exclusive to young adults with cancer, and links to both online and local support groups (there are even chapters in the UK, Canada, and Australia!).

With everything from social networking events to advocacy, peer counseling, even scholarships & financial aid, I’m Too Young for This is a great place to learn about community events and retreats, or find solace in other forms of media such as internet forums or related books and movies.

There’s also Seventy K, which especially advocates the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Bill of Rights. Check out the YouTube video about Seventy K below, or click here.

More awesome resource links:

The Facts (Part I)

Michelle: Remember those public service announcements on TV that began in the late 80’s,  The More You Know?  The simple format of dishing out bite-sized servings of useful information continues to be revolutionary and highly effective in bringing awareness to the masses about safety, health, and world issues. The more you know, the better you can act and inform others.

To that end, it’s time for some good old fashion learnin’! Did you know:

  • Every year 70,000 young adults between the ages of 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer in the US.
  • In this age group the rate of  cancer survival has seen no  noticeable improvement in over 20 years.
  • The 15 -39 year old age range is referred to as Young Adult. Too old to be completely coddled, but too young to be fully independent.
  • Over the past 30 years, young adults with cancer have seen the greatest increase in cancer incidence than any other age group.
  • Young adults with cancer suffer a mortality rate of 10,000 per year in the United States.

Want to learn more? Check out these links:

Be sure to tune in next time when we’ll discuss specific organizations that help support the unique needs of the young adult cancer community.

The Young Invincibles on Fractured Atlas

Michelle: Following up to the previous post, check out The Young Invincibles profile on Fractured Atlas. The profile also contains a link for contributions and donations to the project!

While you’re there, take a moment to browse some of the other past and current projects sponsored by Fractured Atlas. It’s wonderful to see so many different facets of creativity in the arts community.

Please note: The Young Invincibles is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of The Young Invincibles may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.