Every so often you run across a television show that you can completely identify with as you watch it each week.
I ran across this little gem at the exactly right time in my life. I was diagnosed with (an at the time undetermined) cancer on September 25, 2018. ‘A million little things’ premiered the following night.
I’m not going to lie. I had no clue what to expect the first time I tuned in. One of my favorite movies is ‘Office Space.’ To this day I watch it everytime it comes on so when I ran across a show with Ron Livingston in it I had to check it out. The last thing I expected was how much I would find myself relating to the characters and the situations they would deal with each week.
For those who aren’t familiar with ‘A million little things,’ the premise is how suicide effects everyone around that person after they are gone. That’s how it begins, but there is so much more. Four everyday joes get trapped in an elevator. While they are waiting they all start talking about their lives and things they enjoy. By the time the fire department comes to retrieve them a bond has formed and they become friends.
Okay, well it is kind of a weak basis, but that’s all right. Ironically, the reason I tuned in the first week was to see Ron Livingston, but the character that committed suicide (Jon) in the first episode was the one played by him. It didn’t matter. I was hooked already.
I’m a survivor of a few suicide attempts when I was younger as well as someone who struggles with bipolar disorder. I know all too well just how hopeless things can become until one day you just can’t take it any longer and suicide seems like the best solution. As the pilot episode unfolds you learn that Rome (Romany Malco) was attempting suicide when his friend Gary (James Roday) calls to tell him Jon was dead. That phone call kept him from killing himself. If the call had come a few minutes later it would have been too late and he would have succeeded in his own attempt. In the coming weeks, Rome struggles to understand his own depression.
The other topic that the show focuses a lot on is breast cancer, and shows how it’s not just a woman’s disease. Men can also get it. How perfect for me, right? I had literally just been diagnosed with what I would learn two weeks later was breast cancer. You meet Gary and learn he was one of the 1% of breast cancer cases that strike men. I’m not sure if I have ever seen another show tackle this topic as a major theme (or at all). Breast cancer is just for the ladies, right? It’s nice to see a mainstream television show provide awareness that men can get breast cancer too.
In the first episode, Gary meets Maggie (Allison Miller) at a breast cancer survivor’s group. During the episode ‘Friday Night Dinner’ that aired eight days after I learned that the ‘unknown’ cancer I had was metastatic breast cancer, Maggie learned that her cancer had returned and it had now invaded her lymph nodes (it’s unclear if it has moved to a distant site which would make it metastatic).
It is so painful to watch her try to work through the emotions of having believed she had put cancer in her past only to have to fight it again. She asked the question I was afraid to ask. She asked how long she had left only to be told without treatment she wouldn’t live longer than a year. The look on her face shows the emotions I felt as I read source after source that said the average life for a person with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is only 2 1/2 years.
As the season has progressed, Maggie continues to wrestle with the decision of whether to seek treatment or if she should accept whatever cancer would bring, even if that meant she would die. You see her struggle to decide whether to endure chemotherapy and deal with the nasty side effects it causes or if she should simply live the best life she could with whatever time she had left.
This is a decision I contemplate daily. While today my cancer is well managed with a strict regimen of oral medications, I realize the day might come when I am forced to make the choice of deciding how much fighting is enough. If it looks like things have gotten to the point that I lost any good quality of life, I think for me it would be difficult to continue to pump toxic medications into my body that did nothing to control or reduce the cancer if all they did was make me violently ill.
It’s not often I discover a show that I can’t wait to see each week. I couldn’t have run across this television show at a more perfect time. It deals with so many subjects that touch my life so deeply and has helped me think about the choices I will ultimately face someday. What a real gem in a television world of boring reality shows.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)