MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Our next story deals with music and movies and cancer. Specifically, certain kinds of cancer that effect women. Each year, more than 90,000 women are diagnosed with a gynecological cancer. A new film by D.C. based production company Spark Media highlights a group of oncology surgeons who specialize in treating these cancers. They formed a rock band called N.E.D., short for no evidence of disease. Emily Berman sat down with the film's director, Andrea Kalin, who began by explaining how she came across this particular idea for a documentary film.
MS. ANDREA KALIN
This one, actually, was brought to my attention at a back to school night for the Field School. The manager of the band, who at the time was the head of Walter Reed's Women's Health Research Center, mentioned to me that there was a band of six GYN surgeons, that they had cut two albums, that they were working with a producer who had put out albums for Linkin Park and Ziggy Marley. And I was intrigued. I thought, you know, doctors who are rock docs, this could be fun.
MS. ANDREA KALIN
But when they were playing their music, I could see engage the audience that was there, and after, I went up to a few of the women and said, what did you think of the music? Loved it. But what did you get out of this? You know? Why would you even listen to this? And one immediately perked up and said, I'm gonna make an appointment for and with my doctor. And that's when I felt, wow, they are really making that connection between using this unconventional way to get a message out, and that message actually having an impact.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
Can you talk about the experience of actually being at an N.E.D. concert? And N.E.D., it's the name of your film and the name of the band. Are the fans there mostly patients of the doctors?
The typical crowd are mostly the doctors' patients, their friends, their families, their loved ones. They call themselves "med heads," and they'll shave N.E.D. into their just spouting hair that's coming after a chemo regime. They'll tattoo N.E.D. on their breasts. They're incredibly excited to be able to see their doctors also in a different context.
So, in the film, we hear not only from doctors, but from a lot of their patients, who are living through perhaps the most intense emotional time of their lives. How did you convince these people to share their stories while they're going through such a sensitive time?
The patients are really the emotional core of the film. So much attention is paid to breast cancer that they were willing to embrace a crew that could break through the silence of a disease they were suffering from, but no one really knew about. But there were moments that it was raw and very difficult to keep the camera rolling when you're experiencing things that are totally unscripted and often very painful.
There's an acute mission that we felt with this film that we want to get people to start talking about things that are uncomfortable.
And that's something we hear from one of the doctors in the film. Dr. John Boggas, who works at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, says the music for him is to get people to talk about something that no one wants to talk about.
Yeah, I think the release valve that they need through the music is really important as physicians, as surgeons that have an incredibly vicious and demanding schedule with outcomes that are less than optimistic. And for the patients, I think it gives them a chance to see the humanity in their doctors. And that changes their relationships.
So, throughout the film, we hear many patients telling their doctors that they love them. And this really struck me, because there's even a patient who passes away in the film, and her husband recalls her last words, and I want to play a clip of that.
The last words that she said, I remember vividly, again it was Dr. Soper. And I think he was holding her hand. And he explained to us the reality of it. We knew what was, we knew that things were winding down. And again, she hadn't spoken, not for two days. And she suddenly lifted up her head and looked at Dr. Soper, full in the face, and she said, I love you. Thank you. And those were her last words.
So, so her last words were, I love you. Thank you. To the doctor. I mean, not to the husband. The husband's recalling it.
It's a really intimate relationship that they form. I was able to look at doctors in a different way. We think when they close the door and bring in the next patient that most of them just forget about us and move on. And what I witnessed is these surgeons and I think most, in general, do not just forget about the patients. That it's something emotionally they really have to wrestle with. And one of the doctors actually wrote a song about that called, "Third Person Reality."
We hear a lot about breast cancer, but we don't hear so much about other GYN cancers, which affect 90,000 women a year in the US, a third of whom will die. How big an issue is this in the United States and around the world?
In the last 30 years, one million women have been diagnosed with a GYN cancer. You have as many women die of GYN cancers as men do of prostate cancer, yet prostate cancer research receives 50 percent more funding than all GYN cancers combined. And then when you look beyond our own borders, the need is even higher in Africa and Southeast Asia. Cervical cancer is the leading cause of women's deaths in the Southeast Asian region and also in Africa.
Andrea Kalin, thank you for your film and for chatting.
Thank you for allowing us to make some noise.
That was Andrea Kalin, director of the film "N.E.D., No Evidence of Disease" with Metro Connection's Emily Berman. The film is screening on November 5 at Landmark Bethesda Row, and the band is playing live on November 2 at Penn Social in downtown D.C. You can find more information about both on our website, metroconnection.org.
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