Kristina's Surgery and Diagnosis: Her Journey on "Parenthood" Continues

"Parenthood"'s breast cancer storyline strikes a chord.

On the day of her lumpectomy, Kristina leaves her house in the very early morning.  She says goodbye to each of her children individually.  Much time is devoted to this -- because it's painful and memorable.  The goodbye scene with my children remains ingrained in my mind.  

Nora is awake and Kristina puts her back in her crib after they both kiss all her stuffed animal friends goodnight.  Kristina leaves an encouraging note for Max who's still sleeping -- apologizing that she won't be there for his big day -- his speech and election for Student Council president.  Haddie is awake, calling the East Coast, trying to arrange for a semester off at Cornell.  Kristina hugs Haddie, her face a mixture of fear and guilt.

The day of my surgery I had to arrive at the hospital mid-morning, so I expected to send my three kids off to school, in a way that was as normal as possible.  That would have been easier.  Instead, a snowstorm caused a school-opening delay, and I found myself having to leave them, a much more difficult scenario to handle.  At that point, I was so relieved that the day had finally arrived -- I was hopping, skipping and jumping to the hospital.  So, right then the cancer wasn't foremost on my mind, but the tight squeezes from my kids were.  The cancer wasn't scary at that moment, but the thought of eight hours under anesthesia was.  Because a mother wants to send her kids off -- not leave them.

At their post-lumpectomy meeting with the surgeon, Kristina and Adam learn more about her diagnosis.  There were clean margins around her tumor which means he is quite certain that he got it all (faces light up with relief).  Her tumor is classified as Her 2 Neu Amplified (it feeds off a particular protein), it is more aggressive than expected, and some cancer was found in a lymph node (faces drop and are confused).  

Her surgeon is portrayed as a very confident and well regarded doctor.  He doesn't exude much warmth, but you can tell that he cares about his patients.  What I don't like about him is that his confidence (or arrogance) prevents him from giving them sufficient details about her case.  It may be a result of the time limitations of a one-hour television series, but I tend to think it's this doctor's way.  When he first examined Kristina in an earlier episode, he matter-of-factly told her that her best chance of remission was lumpectomy with radiation.  He didn't respect her right to make an educated decision.  The second opinion surgeon with whom Kristina met had a different approach, mentioning that there are options (lumpectomy with radiation has the same rate of survival as mastectomy).  The broad manner in which he discusses the diagnosis is off-putting and devoid of empathy.  He isn't specific about a number of things such as the special treatment of a Her 2 Neu tumor and the extent of the lymph node involvement; and he doesn't address their question about whether the cancer has spread.

Another issue that last week's episode addresses is the feeling of the affected bystanders.  Crosby, Adam's brother, begs to be given a chore that will matter to Kristina.  Adam's three siblings can't pull themselves away from the hospital waiting room despite Adam's initial request that they take shifts -- each one of them uncomfortably asking him if he wants tea, which really annoys him.  Not knowing what to do intensifies their feelings of helplessness.  Kristina's niece, Amber, bawls on her first date with a guy.  While a cancer patient can channel her fears and resolve into beating the disease, supporters many times find themselves unable to relieve their angst.  While the cancer patient can make decisions that help them to regain some control in a situation that feels so out of one's control, her loved ones must often stand by and watch, support without directing.  It'll be interesting to see how this issue might come up in later episodes.

Kristina and Adam decide not to tell Haddie about the upcoming chemotherapy treatments because they want her to return to college, and she would otherwise insist on taking the semester off.  This is surprising, in light of Kristina and Adam's honest and thoughtful approach to parenting which they have exhibited over the years.  This does not bode well for their relationship with Haddie.

In the next episode, Kristina begins chemotherapy -- Tuesday on NBC at 10. 

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Lisa Gentes-Hunt December 12, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Last night's episode was extremely emotional. Wondering if others watched? Thoughts?
Gabrielle Monroe December 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM
The December 11'th episode was very dramatic, especially with the feel-good Christmas time magic as the backdrop. It does illustrate just how precious and fleeting life can be, and for someone fighting cancer, even more so. I personally liked the previous episodes a little more in dealing with cancer. As Helene pointed out, the viewer must watch a little closer to find the subtle and insidious nature of cancer and all the little ways it creeps into a mother's life. However, this episode had to happen , to reach that climax and provide a good cry for the Holidays.
Helene Schonbrun December 14, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I'll share my thoughts about the Christmas episode in a blog that I plan for next week. It gave the audience a lot to ponder.
Helene Schonbrun December 20, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I've posted on the Christmas episode. What do you think?
Helene Schonbrun December 20, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Just posted on the Christmas episode.


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