WVU Offers Lessons in "Cancer Stories"
If I sent you a one-hour video documentary about cancer, I doubt
that you’d bother to watch it.
If I attached a note saying Ken Burns gave it his “Thumbs
up!”, then maybe you might.
If I pasted a flashy, “Emmy Winner!” sticker on the video,
then maybe you’d put it in the “When I get time.” pile.
What would you do, though, if I sent you a one-hour video and
told you that it will help you answer the age-old question, “What is
the meaning of life?”
Most of you, and nearly all of America, are not aware of
“Cancer Stories.” It is
my intent here to change that.
Cancer remains the most dreaded diagnosis.
As soon as the doctor utters the word, the patient’s mind
starts asking, “How long do I have?”
Not only does cancer instantly confront us with our mortality but
it also makes us realize that the treatment will be a long and grueling
I have long wanted to record the impact of the cancer diagnosis
and the early days of the patient’s treatment.
Too often, we read only the testimonials written by cancer
survivors. We need these
testimonials—for inspiration, and for science.
But testimonials do not tell the whole story.
As we age, we lose loved ones to cancer.
In subtle ways, we harden, or perhaps callous, our emotions to
protect us from the next loss. It’s
perfectly natural that we react this way.
But it is precisely for this reason that older, experienced
reporters cannot truly report the cancer story.
So it came into my mind that the ideal reporter for this story
should be the young, curious, and unjaded, journalism student.
I was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Mary Babb Randolph
Cancer Center 2000. From
that vantage, I felt I had the standing to propose this project to West
Virginia University President, David C. Hardesty, Jr.
The concept was simple enough.
Students from the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism would
interview patients being treated at the MBRCC and WVU Press would
publish their stories.
The “Cancer Project”, as it was first called, was embraced
across the WVU campus. But
it could not have happened without the support of eight wonderful cancer
patients. They are the men
and women who have completely opened their lives to you and to the rest
of the world. They
sacrificed their privacy so that you might have less of an ordeal when
cancer comes knocking on your door.
When I say the patients sacrificed their privacy, I mean exactly
that. The student reporters
were not only invited into the exam room but they were also invited into
the patient’s home. It is
this unique, fly-on-the-wall perspective that allows you the audience
to share each cancer story as if you were a member of the family.
The doctors and medical staff at MBRCC are to be commended for
the important roles they played in this project.
Before work began, the journalism students attended lectures on
cancer, medical terminology, and treatment options.
Their extensive preparation allowed the students to be
professionals on assignment.
You will, of course, see the doctors in their role as doctors.
But perhaps, for the first time, you will also see the emotional
rollercoaster that cancer doctors also ride.
Thirty journalism students recorded “Cancer Stories” in
print, photographs, and video. The
220-page book comes with a DVD of the documentary.
In June 2004, the video documentary won the Midwestern Regional
Emmy award in the Informational Programming category.
All of us who have worked on the project believe that the book
will be heralded just as prominently.
West Virginia University has garnered high praise from its peers
in academia and healthcare. “Cancer
Stories” is being considered nationally as a teaching medium for
medical students. And
Journalism schools across the country are now considering similar
“real life” reporting classes for their curricula.
To order your copy of “Cancer Stories”, please visit www.wvupress.com
or dial 1-866-WVUPRESS. [1-866-988-7737]
Allen, a native and resident of Clarksburg, is a member of the Advisory
Board of Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University.
WVU Offers Lessons in "Cancer Stories" originally
appeared in the February 4, 2005 issue of the State Journal.
David Allen, a native and resident of Clarksburg, is a member of the Advisory Board of Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University. WVU Offers Lessons in "Cancer Stories" originally appeared in the February 4, 2005 issue of the State Journal.
Copyright 1990-2005 David G. Allen