I saw the new teen romance movie The Fault in Our Stars over the weekend, and had some thoughts about it that I'd like to share over two blog posts. The first of these posts will feature musings on life and death that the film stirred within me, while the second post (which will appear later this week) will be a more direct view of the relationship in the movie. Hopefully, neither post will be too spoilery (in case you haven't seen the movie, or the read the book by John Green that it is adapted from).
The Fault in Our Stars deals primarily with the lives of its two leads, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus (Gus) Waters. Both have had cancer. Gus' is in remission, while Hazel's (Stage IV thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs) is in a sort of holding pattern. One day, at a support group meeting for teens who've dealt with cancer, Gus expresses an interest in Hazel (whom he affectionately refers to as "Hazel Grace"), and a nice romance blossoms.
While the support group consists of some of the best looking cancer patients I've ever seen (hint: the movie could have made them look a bit more realistic), the film ultimately doesn't flinch from sickness, or death. Hazel's battle with thyroid cancer hit close to home, as that is the type of cancer I had four years ago, although my situation was far less severe. Still, it resonated.
Last month, as I awaited results of some routine blood work and an ultrasound of the neck (to make sure there were no new growths after the thyroid cancer), I felt doom and gloom. What if the results came back... not good? It freaked me out, but then there was also a practical side of my mind that noted, 'We all have to die of something.' I've lived 38 years, in one of the best countries in the world, in pretty much middle-class standards most of that time, and there really isn't a reason to complain.
A teenager from the UK died this May after dealing with cancer. He was only 19, and had been sick since he was 15. No doubt he had moments of self-pity, but instead of letting it get him down, his sickness inspired him to help others. Stephen Sutton managed to raise $5.4 million for a teenage cancer charity. He had 19 years on this earth, only 15 of them good ones, and now he's gone. Meanwhile, I'm 38 and worried about some (possibly) bad test results?
There are kids dealing with cancer as I sit here typing these words. Strong, brave little ones, some of whom can barely remember what it's like not to be sick. Cancer strikes at all ages. In other parts of the world, people may endure hellacious lives, long or short, simply because of where they were born, or who controls their country, or who raises them. Life, truly, offers no guarantees.
The Fault in Our Stars, while leaving me a tearful mess at times, reminded me of the fragility of this existence, and how we have to appreciate and make the most of what we have now. Hazel and Gus may not have had the longest relationship in existence but, sometimes, quality trumps quantity. Indeed, we're alive a comparatively short amount of time and, for most of us, the impact we make before returning to oblivion is greatest felt by the people who matter most to us while we're alive.
And it doesn't matter whether our lives are six years, sixteen, or sixty years.
* the photo at the top of the post is of Stephen Sutton, the British teenager who passed away from cancer at age 19, May of 2014.