San Diego State University College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Documentary Film: A Journey Through Breast Cancer

Film examines the communication journey of one patient and her husband through breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and remission

Documentary Film: A Journey Through Breast Cancer

May 21, 2019

By Sofia Bert

May 21,2019

On May 7, Dr. Wayne Beach (SDSU), Dr. Anne Wallace (UCSD) and Dr. Timothy Powell (SDSU) previewed their first screening of the documentary film A Journey through Breast Cancer at the Moores Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego. This film followed the experiences of breast cancer patient Noelle Deane, and her husband Grant, over a period of more than 3 years throughout diagnosis, treatment, and remission.

The goal of this film is to document and study communication between patient, family members, doctors, nurses, medical team members, and across the community as cancer treatments unfolded. A unique and innovative collaboration involved communication researcher Dr. Wayne Beach, Dr. Anne Wallace (breast cancer surgeon), and filmmaker Dr. Timothy Powell. The resulting film integrates the social sciences, medicine, arts, and humanities.

“We have attempted to document the critical importance of communication and social relationships longitudinally, through the ebbs and flows of a cancer journey, which will hopefully be extremely valuable for education and training across diverse health care systems, educational institutions, and allied disciplines.” said Dr. Beach, Professor in the School of Communication and Director of the Center for Communication, Health and the Public Good at San Diego State (CCHPG).

“We were in collaboration with SDSU, this is what we should be doing. We should be collaborating with our neighbors. We don’t need to singularly own everything. We need to take the strengths that we have from all of our institutions and from San Diego,” said Dr. Anne Wallace, Surgeon and Director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center, UCSD.

Throughout the film, there were interactions and interviews with doctors, nurses, patient, and family members throughout cancer treatment. The film covered difficult topics and discussions that cancer patients go through, including fears, uncertainties, hopes, life and death, treatment options, and how to talk with friends and loved ones about the diagnosis and prognosis.

Another topic addressed in the film is the large stigma around cancer without people acknowledging the probability of treatment and possible cures. Patient Noelle Deane discusses how the term cancer seemed threatening, but after going to support groups and actually being treated for cancer, it has helped her to understand her life in a new perspective. She ended the film being grateful for her cancer and the experience it gave her.

“Six years ago an idea was born to document how a breast cancer patient and her husband communicated throughout diagnosis, radiation, breast surgery, chemotherapy, and breast reconstruction. Fortunately the outcome was cancer remission, and we have been fortunate to document how healing and resilience occurs over time.” said Beach.

Beach said that he anticipates the film will be disseminated regionally through KPBS and hopes that it will eventually be on national television and used throughout cancer treatment centers, diverse health systems, and across allied educational disciplines and institutions.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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