One Year Later Review - Film Expresses the many Emotions of a Cancer Survivor

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a film screening of One Year Later from ovarian cancer survivor and filmmaker Lucia Mauro on the campus of the Northwestern College of Medicine, the proceeds of which went to benefit ovarian cancer research.  Hosted by the Northwestern Gynecological Oncology department and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, this uplifting narrative film follows a cancer survivor who travels to Italy to find her new place in the world after her traumatic illness.

Lucia Mauro, Ovarian cancer survivor and filmmaker

Ovarian cancer is a challenging cancer that affects 1 in 75 women and ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women.  Because ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose, many women face disease in Stage III or IV and often have to be treated multiple times.  Lucia Mauro was first diagnosed Stage IIa in 2012 and suffered a recurrence of the disease in 2014.  She has recently been involved in a new immunotherapy drug study.  After her first treatment, she became interested in what happens after a person has cancer.  How do people move forward?  How do others treat a survivor?  The movie is intended to be one woman’s journey, but can give viewers an idea of the emotions survivors face.  Everyone’s journey is different, but the all the feelings are valid. 

NOCC Volunteers

As an ovarian cancer survivor myself, I viewed the film with my own experience, along with a room full of other survivors, doctors, family and friends.  Though my story is different than Lucia’s, I was interested in the film’s message of hope and joy.

I (Robin Kuss) appear enthralled

Karen Young, director of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Illinois, began the program by introducing some of the gynecological oncology doctors from Northwestern.  Dr. Wilberto Nieves-Neira gave a presentation on all the studies and activities going on in Northwestern’s Gynecological Oncology department and the trends in ovarian cancer research today.  A big area is in the broad area of ovarian cancer diagnosis, and he said there is a current research happening in the ability to get an ovarian cancer diagnosis from a pap smear, which would be a life-changing breakthrough for early detection of the disease.

Karen Young, NOCC Director

Dr. Wilberto Nieves-Neira

Ms. Mauro, who has background as a theater critic, writer, and actor, presented some background about herself and her cancer story, and then she introduced her film and how she went about casting and making the film.  She wanted to address the emotional challenges of survivorship and how one moves into his or her new normal state, and how it can affect relationships.   This semi-autobiographical film relies on her own trip to Italy as a backdrop for the main character’s attempt to make sense of her life.  Many people face issues like paralyzing fear of recurrence, anxiety, body image difficulties, and changed relationships with friends and family.

The audience at the One Year Later screening

The film follows Liz (played wonderfully by Juliet Hart), who leaves her husband at home to go Italy to get out of her head and away from the cancer that was the mail part of her life for a while.  She at first stays with her friends Jenny and Dave in Milan (Amanda Powell and PJ Powers), but gets an opportunity to visit other locations and travel on her own.  The breathtaking scenery and on-location sights and sounds were a treat for the senses, and the performances by the actors helped convey many of the issues cancer survivors and their close friends and family face.

Amanda Powell and PJ Powers

I liked the film very much and I think it could be helpful for medical professionals to see what cancer survivors go through after their treatment.  It’s one thing to be on the schedule of cancer treatment, but when the doctors cut you loose, your security blanket it taken away, and you have to find a way to go forward.  While I personally did not travel to Italy, I certainly had to fight some of the feelings of fear and anxiety and the questions of “what’s next for me now?” after I completed my treatment.  This film validates what I felt to some degree and it was fun, too.

Photographs courtesy Colleen Abrahamovich of Stolen Moment Photography.

 

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