Norman the Movie
It seems like yesterday that the halls of Grafton High School in Grafton, Massachusetts were covered with orange Norman the movie posters and promotional post cards. But it has already been over a month since Grafton was extremely lucky to host a screening of Norman, the day that the DVD was released, on May 7th.
As a high school teacher of nineteen years, Norman struck me profoundly. The movie captures so accurately and realistically the unspoken dynamics of high school life. So many students have issues with which they are dealing, ones they cover up in so many ways. I love the honest, dark, yet humorous tone of Norman, for it allows its audience to see not only the daily existence of high school students but also gives insight into mental health issues as well.
I believe that everyone who comes in contact with high school students – parents, teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators, and, of course, students themselves – should see this movie. Although not everyone faces the same problems as Norman Long, the main character, they all do face some challenge, which is an important reminder and makes us empathetic.
While Norman struck me first and foremost as a teacher and parent, its impact on me was also tremendous because of its connection to stomach cancer, a cancer which most people know nothing about….which took my brother Steve’s life at the age of 46. Although it is difficult to watch Norman’s father battle stomach cancer, I think it can be therapeutic for those who have been affected by it. With so much attention devoted to other cancers, no one has a clue that stomach cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the world.
For those of us who have lost someone to stomach cancer, it helps to think that maybe Norman can somehow help raise awareness about this terrible disease. There is so much work to be done when it comes to awareness about stomach cancer, not only in the general population but also in the medical community. For example, many doctors can be dismissive about stomach cancer symptoms, brushing it off as stress or acid reflux. This needs to change.
In fact, many doctors do not know that there is a hereditary form of stomach cancer, like my family has, called Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer, which causes stomach, breast, and colon cancer, and is caused by the CDH1 mutation. After my brother died, we were tested and learned that 3 of my 4 siblings carried the CDH1 mutation. This meant that we had an 83% chance of developing stomach cancer. In order to prevent that from happening, we all followed the recommended course of action—removal of the entire stomach. The surgery proved to be life saving as we all had precancerous cells growing in us that would have eventually become stomach cancer. Our children will eventually need to be tested as they each have a 50% chance of carrying the mutation.
Although Norman is not a movie about stomach cancer, we are hoping that it causes people to ask questions about it, to learn information by visiting our website www.NoStomachForCancer.org and, most importantly, to follow up with any concerns with a doctor. We need to spread the word, and Norman is definitely a start as it puts a face on stomach cancer.
We are extremely grateful to the producers of Norman for helping us raise awareness about stomach cancer. We raised $200 at the May 7th screening which will go to The One Fund, helping victims of the Boston marathon bombing, and to No Stomach For Cancer. Their support has been incredible, and we encourage you to share this movie with everyone you know. Norman is now available on iTunes and Video On Demand. Be sure to check out their Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/NORMANthemovie.
Working together, we can improve the lives of high school students who struggle with various challenges as well as the many people affected by stomach cancer.