"Get in touch with your body." This is the message of the Get in Touch Foundation, an organization dedicated to educating young girls and boys about breast cancer and body awareness. There is a stigma around cancer -- any kind of cancer. We don't want to talk about, we sometimes want to put it aside into that category of negative things that feel uncomfortable. Illness, loss, hardship are difficult things to face, but in working with the Get in Touch Foundation I have learned something -- the more you open yourself up to these "uncomfortable" topics, the more you understand and the less stigmatized they will become.
In anticipation of this year's Pretty in Pink event in Los Angeles, I have made my world a little bigger and spoken to a few wonderful people about their experiences with and around breast cancer. The Get in Touch Foundation is awarding it's first ever Jean Stapleton Award to Jason Katims this year in honor of his depiction of breast cancer on his show Parenthood (anyone with a beating heart will understand how emotionally poignant this show is). Now, you have to understand, as a young writer, Jason Katims is a big deal, like... the deal. However, I've come to find that when talking about a subject such as breast cancer and the information around it, any barriers, any divisions seem to drop away because we are all working for the same thing -- awareness.
A couple years ago, Katims' wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. As it is for all families who deal with this diagnosis, it was hard. However, Katims answered in a specifically interesting way: He decided to put it into his work. In season four of Parenthood, Monica Potter's character, Kristina, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Katims was not sure whether to pursue this storyline or not. "I agonized over it a little bit because it had happened pretty recently -- it was all still pretty raw." Eventually, he decided to let people in -- to explore a sensitive area of his own life through the television family he had created.
To anyone who watched the show, this season of Parenthood was particularly memorable. With this one central crisis of Kristina being diagnosed, everything else happening in the show seemed to carry so much weight. Katims wasn't so confident this would be the case. "I think my fear about telling the story when we took it on was that the audience would reject it as too depressing." But, audiences came out in full support of Katims' story choice. Not only was this emotionally-charged entertainment -- trust me it was, I was sitting by a box of tissues every episode -- this was PSA within itself. "I know that they story helped people who were going through it themselves -- which is really humbling," Katims said.
As creative beings, we have the world as a template. It is a constant source of inspiration and pain -- all the things that move us to be better and more innovative. In approaching the difficult subject of breast cancer on a network show, Katims -- Emmy winner and beyond established writer -- is still learning things. "My take away was to be a brave storyteller." If we can take this approach in everything we do, wouldn't we be so much more informed? So much more open to education? Whether the story you're telling is real or fake, the ability to brave is a necessity. The diagnosis of breast cancer for ourselves or our family members is dire, it is painful, but it is also an opportunity to be brave. To make your world a bigger place.
When Katims' wife had breast cancer, "I saw her bring the world in around her -- and open herself up to get their support." The Get in Touch Foundation is one of those support systems. Whether you are 10 or 50, these safe places of education and information will continue to help us grow and expand as individuals. Katims' has a daughter. When I asked him what his one piece of advice to his daughter would be, he said he would tell her to "let the world in." Because, really, if we don't let the world in, healing is difficult and education is impossible.