making cancer fun

My old co-worker and friend Jessica Levco deserves a lot of the credit for the video I posted last week that has become so popular. I was the “star,” yes. I had the “story,” OK. But she convinced me that a video was a good idea in the first place…and helped out with all the rest. I would have been happy with the chicken soup that she talks about in her guest post, below. Only a friend as amazing as her would give me something that has changed my life and my outlook completely.

There’s an unwritten friendship protocol to follow when you find out your friend is in trouble.

They caught the flu? Bring chicken soup. Broke up with their boyfriend? Go out for a fun ladies’ night. Got locked out of their apartment? Offer up your couch.

But when Lindsey told me she had cancer, I felt helpless.

I wanted to make the situation different. I wanted to help change it, but I knew I couldn’t. It just didn’t seem like I could do anything for her.

I thought about her a lot. I called. I would look at the desk where she used to sit and wonder how she was doing. I wrote a story about her.

But still, I wasn’t taking any action. It was frustrating.

So, when Lindsey told me she wanted to go out on a date with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even though it seemed far-fetched, I thought: “Finally, a project! I can help Lindsey do something!”

Originally, she thought about sending him a tweet, instead of doing a video.

No way, I said.

We needed to do something bigger–something dramatic–something that would hopefully get his attention. After a little cajoling and persuading, I got her on camera to ask him out on a date. It was pretty silly–but pretty fun.

We went to bed at 10 p.m. on Monday night with about 45 views. We figured if we could have 70 views by the time we woke up, we’d be in good shape.

We had close to 600.

And now, her date request has been seen almost 400,000 times.

Throughout the week, I helped Lindsey manage her emails, talk to the media, practice questions that reporters would ask her, and set up a fundraising page. We called it a social media sweatshop.

But we didn’t just talk about JGL and the fact that NBC called her. The way we talked about cancer shifted. Before going to L.A., I didn’t really know how to talk to Lindsey about her cancer. But during the week, we somehow “normalized” the cancer discussion. People “liked” her cancer post on Facebook, almost in the same way you would “like” your friend saying they ate a peach for lunch.

I felt comfortable asking her more questions about her cancer. One minute, we talked about what she would wear on her date–the next minute, she explained to me in detail how a pancreas functions. It felt OK.

By the end of the week, Lindsey didn’t seem like a cancer victim (or a “cancer-stricken woman” or a “cancer sufferer”). She seemed like a girl who asked a movie star out on a date, who just happened to have cancer. She changed the way she told her story.

“This has been the most exciting week of my life,” Lindsey said, during our last night in L.A.

I’m just glad I got to be a part of it.

This also an early Thanksgiving post because this year, I am thankful for Jessica and all of my other amazing friends (and sister-friends and family).

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One Response to making cancer fun

  1. Jean Farmer says:

    Wow! Talk about re-branding yourself. Congrats to Lindsey for changing the way people can feel comfortable talking about cancer. And to Jessica for helping Lindsey to find that new voice. You all make a terrific team.

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