The Movie Diary

War is hell

By Dom Cioffi
As frequent readers of this column know, my reviews tend to be more “diary” than “movie.” I succumbed to this approach years ago when I realized my ramblings about life had a lot more substance than most of the films I was watching.
As of late (because of my recent cancer diagnosis), these ramblings have become more substantive than ever. Cancer has a way of dominating your life, physically, mentally and emotionally, so it’s not surprising that this diagnosis has resulted in great fodder for writing.
So, as such, I apologize in advance because I have a feeling “The Movie Diary” is going to be commandeered for the next couple months by stories revolving around the navigation of this dreaded disease.
This journey to regain my health starts this week as I head to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, to begin the process of eradicating the tumor and other affected areas of my body.
This process will involve several phases, the first of which will begin with a series of appointments where I will be assessed and educated on the exact processes I will undergo. These educational and assessment sessions will be followed by three minor procedures to prep me for the actual treatment phase.
The first procedure will be the placement of an access tube for the chemotherapy drugs, the second will be the movement of a salivary gland in my neck, and the third will be the insertion of a feeding tube into my stomach.
The cancer I have has manifested in my throat and spread to several lymph nodes in my neck, causing me to receive the uncomfortable “Stage 4” label. Because of this, I will be treated with seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.
Apparently, when they shoot that much radiation at the side of your head, there is going to be some residual damage, namely to the glands that help produce saliva, leaving many patients with a chronic case of dry mouth.
The Mayo Clinic has developed a technique where they surgically move an unaffected salivary gland out of the way of the radiation in the hope that it will continue to work afterwards. This procedure is one of the main reasons why I chose to travel to Florida to get treatment.
Being an athlete and someone who loves to run, the idea of a chronic dry mouth frightens me so this unique procedure became a very attractive option.
Which brings us to the feeding tube.
I don’t know why, but having a tube hanging out of my stomach is giving me more angst than the idea of having radiation shot into my neck. Maybe it’s because I think of feeding tubes being utilized for terminal cases or the elderly, but I just can’t come to terms with the idea that I’m a middle-aged guy who’s in great physical shape, but who will soon need to eat through a hole in his stomach.
Regardless of my mental aversions, they’re inserting one this week. I questioned the need for such a device but was promptly shot down for two important reasons. First of all, I’m not going to have much success swallowing food for quite some time, so I’m subsequently in danger of losing too much weight. And secondly, if I lose too much weight, it will throw off the very precise alignments of the radiation beams that are meant to cure me.
Once the doctors explained these points to me, I had to agree that the feeding tube is a necessary part of this equation.
The fact remains that when you go to war, you have to expect casualties. While amazing inroads have been made over the last several decades, eradicating cancer from the human body is still fraught with side effects that can be debilitating.
But I have to constantly remind myself: any side effect is still better than the alternative. And with that, the journey begins.
This week’s feature, “War Dogs,” is the true story about two young men who headed into a different kind of war—a war where they were more worried about making money than dying.
Starring Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper and Miles Teller, “War Dogs” is one of those movies that doesn’t seem especially interesting from the outside, but once you get inside, it becomes intriguing on multiple levels. Add to this fact some amazing performances and you’ve got a seriously under-looked film. To think that the two young men featured in this picture actually got away with dealing arms internationally during a major war is astonishing.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a great real-life story that seems too fictionalized to have ever been true. It’s the classic rags-to-riches storyline with a lot of guns thrown in for effect.
A bullet-proof “B+” for “War Dogs.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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