Vim & Vigor - Summer 2019 - GMC - 50

The reality is health isn't just a physical condition-it's also
a mental, emotional and social experience. So how do viewers
accept their own health realities, especially when Hollywood tries
to tackle such a complex storyline? Can patients and their families
truly identify with these depictions on the silver screen?
To answer this question, we took a closer look at some popular
movies that are based on real-life illnesses and asked our Gwinnett
Medical Center doctors to see what these movies got right, what
was exaggerated, and what you can do if your life started looking
like an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Still Alice

Still Alice tackles the difficult and often
misunderstood condition of Alzheimer's, telling the
story of a linguistic scholar who is diagnosed with
early-onset dementia at the age of 50. "Being diagnosed with earlyonset Alzheimer's before the age of 65 is unusual and not very
common," explains Mark Darrow, MD, a geriatrician director of
graduate medical education with Gwinnett Medical Center. "In
fact, it's estimated that roughly only 5 percent of the population
develops early-onset Alzheimer's."
In the movie, viewers watch as Alice begins struggling with
more and more symptoms of the disease. At first, she can't
remember words and gets lost in familiar places. However, this
quickly progresses to misplacing items in her home, struggling
to sleep throughout the night, forgetting where the bathroom is
located and not recognizing people, including her own children.
"These symptoms are not uncommon throughout the three
stages of Alzheimer's; however, it usually takes between four to
eight years to progress through early stage to late stage," says Dr.
Darrow. To cope with these symptoms, Alice tries to use several
different techniques, like quizzing herself to remember words and
prompting herself with basic questions on a daily basis. "There is
no one-size-fits-all care plan when it comes to Alzheimer's, but
there are things, like creating a simple daily routine, avoiding
change, and arranging financial and legal plans, that
can help," notes Dr. Darrow.

50/50

This movie combines both comedy
and drama as it tells the story of
Adam, a 27-year-old journalist
who is diagnosed with a rare form of bone
cancer: schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma.
Inspired by the director's own experiences,
this movie goes through the different stages
of grief that unfold after a cancer diagnosis.
"A life-altering diagnosis can be very
emotional and shocking at first," explains
Debra Miller, MD, an oncologist affiliated
with GMC's Center for Cancer Care. "It
takes time for patients and their families to
fully wrap their minds around it all."
"Typically, we recommend that patients
try to learn as much as possible about their
diagnosis while continuing routine, healthy
behaviors and surrounding themselves with
support," says Dr. Miller.
Movie viewers also watch the emotional
experiences of Adam's friends and family
after his cancer diagnosis. "While we don't
often think about the emotional toll that
cancer can have on a patient's support
system, it can be challenging in many ways,"
notes Dr. Miller. "The important thing
to remember is that cancer impacts each
person differently, and there is no right way
to cope or grieve." That's why there are a
number of support groups available through
GMC's Cancer Support Center.

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