Column
March 1, 2017

Who are you?

By Dom Cioffi

Prior to the beginning of August 2016, I knew exactly who I was. I had 50 years on this earth to try things out to see where I fit in. I had settled into life, my job, my family, my hobbies. I was, in a word, content.

And then came the unfathomable, the unthinkable, the inconceivable: I was diagnosed with cancer.

In those early days, I hid from the reality, pretended it wasn’t happening. But within a week (and after the revelation that I was Stage 4), things got very real, very fast. At that point, I couldn’t not think about cancer. The fact was, if I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to die.

From that day forward I became a student of cancer, learning everything I could about the overall disease and my specific strain. I read every available article, dredged the internet for information, and watched a multitude of documentaries and news reports. When I met with my doctors, I took copious notes so I wouldn’t forget anything that was said.

Armed with this arsenal of information, I felt confident when it came time to choose a hospital, a medical team and a treatment plan.

I was sure when I started my treatments that I had thought of everything. I was fully prepared to do battle with my disease. As it turns out, the only thing I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult it was going to be to get through.

I used the same approach once my treatments were over and it came time to wean  myself off the pain medication. I read everything available about the drug and the withdrawal symptoms I would experience so I knew exactly what to expect.

And then, when I got the “You’re cancer free” talk two weeks ago, I made sure I knew exactly what I had to do moving forward so I would have the best chance at avoiding a recurrence.

So, in one sense, my cancer journey is over. I fought and beat this dreaded disease and now it’s time to get on with my life. It’s time to go back to work, visit friends and family, go to parties, start coaching again, play golf and basically re-engage in life.

But here’s the rub: It’s not that easy.

What I’ve discovered is that cancer is hard to let go of. You would think it would be easy to turn away from something so horrible, but it’s oddly difficult.

Cancer has enveloped every fiber of my being for over six months. It’s hard to shake that sort of intellectual parasite. And it doesn’t help that nearly everyone I run into wants to know how I am, which starts an unending stream of conversations that pull cancer back to the forefront of my mind.

Admittedly, I’ve never minded talking about my battle and in some ways I’ve worn the badge of “Cancer Survivor” very proudly. I like showing people that cancer stories don’t always end badly, that getting cancer is not always a death sentence.

But in the same breath, I’m also ready to move on and rediscover the person I was before cancer. I don’t want to forget that this happened to me, but I do want to file it away so it doesn’t overly define who I am going forward.

I’m sure this will occur naturally over time, but I also want to foster the transition. I don’t mind if cancer is part of my story, I just don’t want it to be the whole story.

In this week’s feature, “Moonlight,” we meet a young man who is also trying to discover who he is. He is confused by life and the people around him and must go through a multitude of situations before he begins to realize his true self.

Starring a cast of less-well-known actors, “Moonlight” is an artsy little film with a creative delivery and some fine performances. The subject matter is a bit non-traditional, which might alienate some viewers, but overall the story is tastefully told.

Those who watched the Academy Award telecast last weekend were witness to one of the most epic gaffes in television history when “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as the Best Picture winner. “Moonlight” was the actual winner but the presenters had been handed the wrong envelope.

Personally, I don’t feel that “Moonlight” is deserving of the title of the year’s best picture. I thought it was a good film that was well made, well acted and certainly worthy of praise. To me, “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land” will withstand the test of time and be remembered as more poignant films.

Check out “Moonlight” so you can form your own opinion. Just be prepared for a heavy, unconventional story.

A shadowy B- for “Moonlight.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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