Column, The Movie Diary

Riding the storm out

By Dom Cioffi
After I sent in last week’s column for publication, I looked at my mother and commented that I didn’t think I was going to have much more to say. After all, for the past two months I had done nothing but chronicle every aspect of my surprise battle with cancer. I had written about the revelation, the diagnosis, and the treatment plan, as well as a number of other intriguing life issues that cropped up after cancer decided to invade my world.
I was now nearing the halfway point of my treatments so my level of pain and discomfort had increased dramatically, while my ability to contemplate other aspects of this disease had decreased tenfold. In other words, I was feeling more and more crappy with less and less to say.
However, as I was about to learn, this temporary lull in worthy content would be short-lived.
Given that I am now temporarily living in Jacksonville, Fla. (where the Mayo Cancer Clinic is located), I have become accustomed to checking the local weather stations for up-to-date climate information. At the start of my treatments, I was told by the hospital that it was imperative that I not be late or miss any of my appointments because it could throw off the protocols. As such, I had become militant about reviewing any information that would aid me in having timely arrivals.
I had become especially interested in the Weather Channel during the past week because it had been spouting off about a possible hurricane heading toward the Florida coastline.
Being a northern guy at heart, I don’t think much about hurricanes. They are something that happen thousands of miles away and rarely have an effect on my life other than to boost the occasional local storm.
But this time, things were different. This time, I was living right in the middle of a major hurricane zone.
So there I am, experiencing increasing levels of exhaustion from chemotherapy and piercing pain from radiation and now I had to contend with the real possibility of a hurricane coming ashore nearby.
Add into that equation that I am now being cared for by my mother and mother-in-law (both who are in their 80s) while my wife returns home to attend to our son, and you can see how chaotic my life was becoming.
With similar path trajectories being generated by various weather models, it was becoming increasingly apparent that Hurricane Matthew was not only going to hit Florida, but was heading directly toward the city of Jacksonville.
When the official order to evacuate came through, my wife immediately got on the phone to secure us lodging at a Hampton Inn that was located well inland. It seems her quick response was warranted because available hotel and motel rooms in the Jacksonville area were gobbled up within hours, leaving many people on crowded Interstate highways driving great distances to find lodging.
The hurricane was to hit Jacksonville with full force at the start of the weekend. By Wednesday we were settled into adjoining rooms watching the storm approach on television from one side of the room and out the window from the other side of the room. Unfortunately, by Sunday morning, we were receiving word that our rental house was now being deemed “uninhabitable.”
As it turns out, that Category 4 hurricane that everyone was hearing about on television, hit the hardest right next to the area where we rented a home for my cancer treatments.
Talk about bad luck. But like all hardships in life, you pick yourself up, you dust yourself off, and you keep trudging forward.
For obvious reasons, I didn’t make it to the theater this weekend so I have nothing current to review. However, if you want to watch a great documentary (and one that features a true story of perseverance), you might want to check out “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.”
Produced by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, this three-part series follows every aspect of cancer from the earliest recordings of its existence in ancient Egypt to the modern day breakthroughs that are rendering the disease much less deadly.
I was going to be interested in this film for obvious reasons, but I honestly believe others would be equally enthralled by the compelling history of cancer, which has single handedly pushed the boundaries of science and changed the lives of millions of people throughout the world.
An enthralling “A” for “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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