Monday, July 29, 2013

Decoding Annie Parker

I was thrilled to be at the Chicago screening of Decoding Annie Parker on July 25th. 
Karen Kramer, Marketing VP of FORCE likened the evening to prom night with all the excitement and anticipation. Photos on the red carpet, a packed theater of an appreciative audience, and standing ovations for the director, Steve Bernstein, and Annie Parker, made it a memorable evening. Here are a few of my take-aways from the screening:

Stand with Your Teal Sisters - This evening called for the full teal wardrobe. Sidling up to two sisters in teal, I was pleased to meet Sandy Cord and Karen Young of NOCC. It was great to hear first-hand of the plans for Teal Lights Celebration on September 20th and exchange ideas about the 2014 Walk to Break the Silence. Thanks Sandy and Karen for letting me share the evening with you.

Hollywood has Heart -  It was wonderful to hear that actresses Helen Hunt and Samantha Morton were so moved by Steven Bernstein's mission behind the film that they chose to take no salary. Steven spoke of the struggles of independent film making and the ups and downs of cash flow. But even in the lean times, the crew remained committed to completing the project.
Steve Bernstein shares at the struggles in independent film making at the post screening panel discussion.

What Annie Didn't Know - Annie Parker was overwhelmed with anxiety over prevalence of breast cancer in her family, as she watched her mother, cousin and sister suffer and die. She became immersed in medical textbooks to the point of obsession.  Sympathetic medical professionals befriended her. But ovarian cancer was not on her radar. Eight years after her first cancer diagnosis, she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. And the journey begins again. Some of the most heartbreaking scenes of the movie are of Annie's struggle through the pain and wretched side effects of chemo. The battle was not only physical but also emotional, as Annie will refuses to let cancer define her.  Before the BRCA discovery by Mary-Claire King, risk reduction did not exist and the Annie Parker of 1988 did not even consider a choice of a prophylactic oophorectomy.

Families have ResourcesDecoding Annie Parker is not a documentary. The struggles between Annie and her husband are not necessarily factual and could have  been dramatized for the screen. In the post film discussion, Parker reassured that there are resources available for cancer patients and their families. There is help available. Do not to project the hurt and infidelity portrayed on the screen into your own story.

There is More to the Story -  There are more members to Annie's family tree - a son, brother, nieces and  nephews. Each will make a personal, private decision regarding genetic testing. Because of the perseverance of Mary-Claire King and her team, along with GINA, which prevents discrimination on health care coverage due to genetic predisposition, they will make an informed choice.

You've Got to Believe in Something -  Working under a clock that ticked off the diagnosis of breast cancer every twelve minutes, Mary-Claire King believed that this was not random and persevered to find the key.  Annie's belief in her own suspicions, despite what the man in the white coat and stethoscope told her. Despite how cancer ravaged her body, it could not squelch her spirit. She was driven with an obsessive desire to find answers. Not in a selfish, sorrowful "why me" melancholy, but with pluck and determination that there are truths. Truths that allow you to open the door and not live in fear about what is on the other side.

We Are All Connected - Like a String of Pearls - A string of pearls serves as a motif -  Annie wears her mother's strand on special occasions; to celebrate her NED and to meet Dr. King. Dr. King wears a strand at her meeting to discuss research funding. We are strung together -  genetically - mother to aunt to sister. Miles apart, King and Parker were connected - both working towards the same goal. Although Dr. King may have appeared aloof, her praise of Parker demonstrated that she did not lose her connection to every woman diagnosed with cancer.
Part of my strand of pearls - my beautiful Mother

Leverage Social Media - The battle cry of millennial marketing and Steve Bernstein is out to market his movie. With the support of the sold out gala events, the buzz on social media and a high ranking on IMDB, there will be a chance that Decoding Annie Parker will have commercial release in November. Just as Kern spoke of increased exposure since Angelina Jolie's May 14th op-ed in the NY Times, the opportunity for commercial release brings a better opportunity to educate and spread the word. Every opportunity to educate and every new outlet is appreciated.

Samantha Morton's portrayal of cancer warrior Annie Parker was haunting and most worthy of awards. Decoding Annie Parker is a true portrait of strength, survivor-ship and a reminder that each one of us has a role in the battle.

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