If Only For A Second
December 8, 2013 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Twenty cancer patients were asked to keep their eyes shut while they were given a makeover. A photographer then immortalized the moment they opened their eyes in front of a one-way mirror.
posted by gman (57 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's beautiful.
posted by xingcat at 6:44 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


As with the homeless guy makeover, this video left a sour taste in my mouth. Taking people who are forced to stare into the abyss and using them to make yourself feel something real is simply vile.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:45 AM on December 8, 2013 [35 favorites]


Taking people who are forced to stare into the abyss and using them to make yourself feel something real is simply vile.

What?? I don't get that at all. That looked like a lot of people (so many are affected by the disease beyond the diagnosed) truly enjoying a few moments. I found it very sweet.

Downright nice.
posted by chasles at 6:47 AM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I, too thought it was sweet, but almost fifteen years on, I wish that not every short were still trying to mimic the American Beauty trailer.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:59 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


There's more information regarding the Mimi foundation here. You can read their mission statement here.

I wasn't sure what to think about this on first viewing. Learning a bit about the foundation put the video and the project in a different light for me. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the limited edition book go to the foundation, which seems to be a pretty solid organization.

Thanks for the post.
posted by HuronBob at 7:02 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of them looked a bit hurt -- it's a joke, but not really a joke for them, more of a joke on them.
posted by jrochest at 7:06 AM on December 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


This is just part of the ideology of brightside cancer treatments, where cheerfulness becomes mandatory and any deviation or sorrow is faulted. "You must be optimistic, it will improve your survival chances!" becomes "You must be optimistic even when your diagnosis is terminal. Because otherwise we will feel uncomfortable."

I love that they're selling a book, too, and calling it charity. Because what cancer needs is more people trying to cash in and call it caring.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2013 [31 favorites]


I'm with R. Schlock -- I found this to be awful and for the same reasons, but I lost my mother and other family members to cancer and so I take it pretty personally. To me it felt like, these people are fighting a battle for their very lives -- a battle that scars and disfigures -- and you've dressed them up as a clown for a cheap laugh and to sell a few books (for a good cause or no, it doesn't matter).
posted by Houstonian at 7:08 AM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, my mother died rather quickly of pancreatic cancer a few months back, and I can tell you this would definitely have been her thing.
posted by gman at 7:15 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that everyone crying "exploitation!" is dismissing the notion that every one of the patients here not only has agency - the ability to opt out, to elect not to sign the release, the right to withdraw - but has exercised it.
posted by kcds at 7:15 AM on December 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


i have mixed feelings as well.

i used to work for the American Cancer Society. they have a program called Look Good, Feel Good. it partners with sort of high end cosmetics like Estée Lauder and wig manufacturers. they put together kits and a woman can come in and pick out a wig or two, and also get a whole kit of full size makeup stuff, not samples. a professional makeup person shows them how to hide dark circles etc with the products they are given.

i will always remember the ken comment from a woman. she said that she went out to dinner with her husband and felt normal for the first time since staring treatment for cancer, that she actually felt she could go out in public and be confident about her appearance, rather than having people look sideways or stare because she looked like a cancer patient.

and i thought that was awesome. regardless of society's pressure on women to look "good" and to force cancer patients to be "cheerful", this woman was able to have what should be a normal experience. and maybe that just made her cancer a bit easier to bear. she could sit across from her husband at dinner at a restaurant and know she didn't look horribly sick.
posted by sio42 at 7:16 AM on December 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


so i guess my mixed feelings is this may not be everyone's experience, so i wouldn't want it forced on anyone in an effort to make them "happy".
posted by sio42 at 7:17 AM on December 8, 2013


God forbid I am ever so sick that strangers feel I must be protected from a delightful prank.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:19 AM on December 8, 2013 [26 favorites]


it seems like all these people had a good time of it, tho.
posted by sio42 at 7:28 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously. One of you fuckers had damn well better do something this great for me if I get that sick. Anyone treating my grown-ass self with kid gloves when I'm terminal is uninvited from my deathbed Mario Kart tournament.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:30 AM on December 8, 2013 [30 favorites]


"immortalized" ?
posted by fairmettle at 7:33 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frankly, I love the Frenchness of these makeovers.

Seriously, they are way, way French in the very best way.

I disagree with the notion of exploitation in this, too, in that these are willing participants, it's in service of a good cause, and it reminds us all that sometimes, you have to hold onto those rare and magical instants when things are right in the midst of all that's wrong. But then, I think unremitting seriousness is a toxin, so my bias is clear.

Also, I want the huge fluffy golden afro wig.
posted by sonascope at 7:33 AM on December 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


These are the photographs they used. How many more people participated in the makeover and got righteously pissed off when they saw the results? Given the standard makeover practices with cancer patients that sio42 mentions, if a person goes in thinking they're going to look nice and instead they open their eyes to discover that these people have made them look like a clown... do you really think that no one cried?

I know that the whole Barbara Ehrenreich perspective is predictable at this point, but so is the contrary perspective:

"Don't make fun of dying people and don't expect them to cheer you up!"

"Don't be so serious, you party-pooper!"

The two sides of this are clear. There's room for both, depending on personal preference, though I think Ehrenreich is right to point out that brightside bias is currently ascendant. I also wonder whether our preferences depend in part on whether we're thinking of loved ones we've lost or our own possible futures.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:45 AM on December 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think this is fantastic and entirely not what I was expecting.

When I was in high school, my best friend's mom had breast cancer and she lost all her hair with the chemo. When I'd go over to her house, she'd take every opportunity to "accidentally" have her wig fall off her head: onto my shoulder, across the television, into a slice of birthday cake. She never failed to make me wildly uncomfortable and belly laugh at the same time. I miss her.
posted by ColdChef at 7:46 AM on December 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


Seriously. One of you fuckers had damn well better do something this great for me if I get that sick. Anyone treating my grown-ass self with kid gloves when I'm terminal is uninvited from my deathbed Mario Kart tournament.

I will sit in second on the final lap and then cheaply blue shell you for the win. Please absolve me before you pass so your relatives don't have me killed.
posted by jaduncan at 7:47 AM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Did the women know the sort of look they were up for? If I thought I was going to look healthy and normal, and instead got the hideous brown Hairspray-style wig, I'd be so sad when I opened my eyes. But if I'd been told ahead of time that it was going to be more creative / unusual / potentially unflattering, I'd probably be fine with it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:52 AM on December 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think the people who find the makeovers "clownish" are missing sonascope's point, which is that they are iconic styles within French culture, which has some deeper traditions in this respect than US culture does. Consider whether it would be upsetting to open your eyes to be confronted by a passable homage to Clark Gable or Marilyn Monroe.

I didn't think any of the patients looked "hurt," but that is a bit tricky because positive and negative passionate emotions trigger similar facial expressions. I think what the makeup artists were going for was astonishment, and they pretty much nailed it every time. And that, after all, fulfills their stated goal -- to forget the disease, if only for one second.
posted by localroger at 7:57 AM on December 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


I have an incurable chronic illness (that isn't cancer). It's changed my personality. I worry a lot about what will happen as things go south over the coming years.

I don't think this is delightful or funny. I'd feel like the butt of a joke if someone did this to me.
posted by mochapickle at 7:58 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


It probably depends a lot on the person. A very good friend of mine had testicular cancer a number of years ago, and after the operation I knew he would be getting fed up with the kid glove treatment, so when I saw him I said "are you ok mate? You look about one stone lighter". It took him a second or two, but it was worth it to see him laugh. I don't think it would have worked with many people though.
posted by walrus at 8:01 AM on December 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


It seems to me that everyone crying "exploitation!" is dismissing the notion that every one of the patients here not only has agency - the ability to opt out, to elect not to sign the release, the right to withdraw - but has exercised it.

No, we get that, but you can't unring a bell. Yay that all the people who ended up being included in this were fine with it. But the possibility exists that some people might totally hate this, and some people think that it's not the best idea to spring on people while crossing your fingers that it's gonna all work out the way you want it to.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It looks like many here have the impression that these people thought they were getting a simple "standard/normal" makeover. If so, how did you arrive at that conclusion?

I got the impression, from the looks on their faces, that they knew it was going to be something outrageous, but they didn't know what the final form would be.

I think they would have ended up with a coffee table book with no pictures, had the patients not been apprised of what was going on.
posted by sutt at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconding mochapickle and others...while YMMV, and everyone's different, and there was a particular aim for this video, I can only speak for myself, plus all the people I love who have been affected by cancer--this approach to a makeover would not sit well. You don't have to treat someone with kid gloves and be patronizing, and neither do you have to rib-jab them out of feeling the way they do. It's their lives, not yours.
posted by datawrangler at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


if these are all iconic French personalities (i only recognized Marie Antionette) then i can get it. it may be less shocking and would do as someone said up thread, make them forget the disease for a moment in the way that just a regular makeover wouldn't.

so yeah if we did this American style and everyone was made up like Lady Gaga, Prince, Marylin Monroe, Doris Day, Grace Kelly, Eartha Kitt, etc, people with noticeable styles that we can recognize in Halloween costumes without much context, then i can see this as being fun and not quite the bait and switch it may seem to be.
posted by sio42 at 8:11 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


But the possibility exists that some people might totally hate this, and some people think that it's not the best idea to spring on people while crossing your fingers that it's gonna all work out the way you want it to.

That possibility exists for every attempt at anything ever. "Can't possibly discomfit anyone" is a horrible bar to set unless you're looking for a reason not to do anything.
posted by mhoye at 8:12 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


So after watching I imagined somebody showing paralyzed me somehow propped up in a dressing gown with those clompy high heels I wore when I was abled bodied.

Fuck that. I mean, for me, fuck that, but illness is weird. To the extent that SCI folks have an ideology, it is that I am a bass-ass motherfucker and I will cut you if you misbehave. As in, you try to imply I'm not sexy as is, I will cut you.

Cancer? It's hard for me for my head to pass judgments. But my gut sez fuck that shit.
posted by angrycat at 8:16 AM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


neither do you have to rib-jab them out of feeling the way they do. It's their lives, not yours.

QFMFT
posted by angrycat at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, we get that, but you can't unring a bell.

I can't really get myself to click the original link. Maybe out of respect, I can let the people who had this experience really enjoy themselves without imposing my thoughts on fucking everything all the time.

Ugh, clicked the link. Hated it. It is too early on a Sunday to absolutely obliterate the creative director of this project for "putting lipstick and wigs" on cancer patients to "immortalize" them and then exploiting their initial reaction with a slow-motion camera, which is being used more and more by photographers to "get the perfect frame." This is like inserting the cancer patient into the "fashion system" and treating the subject as a model rather than capturing anything meaningful.

Then again, if the book's profits are going to help improve the lives of people with cancer, I'm all good with it.
posted by phaedon at 8:17 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


To elaborate a bit on what I said up-thread, my mum's humour really came out when she was sick, even if it only lasted a couple months. I remember coming into her bedroom probably two or three weeks before she passed. By that time the tumours on her pancreas and liver (and whatever else was going on in there) were so large that she looked nine months pregnant. Because she was always hot, she was also always naked and in birthing position on her in-home hospital bed with a small green pillow maintaining her decency. I looked at her and asked why she hadn't called to tell me she was in labour. She responded with, "I'm having a liver. I just delivered the placenta."

Not everyone's thing, for sure, but it certainly helped us get through the shittiness.

Oh, and I just remembered another one. My family is not very close and there are a few members who were/are estranged from us. When a bunch of them started showing up, this made my mother extremely happy. One time when we were all together around her bed, she looked at us and said, "You've all been Punk'd! I'm not sick, you're on a show called Unite My Family!"
posted by gman at 8:18 AM on December 8, 2013 [31 favorites]


That possibility exists for every attempt at anything ever. "Can't possibly discomfit anyone" is a horrible bar to set unless you're looking for a reason not to do anything.

Yeah, that's not true at all. Lots of things do not that have that possibility, and furthermore, not all possibilities that someone could hate something are equal.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:25 AM on December 8, 2013


Wow. I see more consternation in their faces than anything else. (I freely admit that might be my own filter.)
posted by Wordwoman at 8:28 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Like gman's mom, mine would have LOVED this. She really did not care for the makeup ladies that came around the cancer wing to make everyone feel better about their looks as though that was going to fix everything.

I have to assume that the people participating in this had some idea of what was to come. And I want to assume that after the looks of consternation in that first second after they open their eyes they all broke out into hysterical laughter.

The film gives you a glimpse of that with one of the participants, but I don't actually think it achieves its purpose very well because it seems to highlight (for me anyway) this feeling that the participants did NOT know they were going to be made up like Marie Antoinette or FrenchPopStarWhoseLookWeAmericansDontRecognize. I think they did know, and I think the Mimi Foundation did what it set out to do with the project (that is to help people have fun in a way that works for them amidst their illness). But I don't think the film quite captures the success of the project, if indeed my presumptions are correct.
posted by gubenuj at 8:46 AM on December 8, 2013


It's also worth noting the use of the word "carefree" in the intro; it seems likely that the participants knew it would be fancy-dress in tone.
posted by localroger at 8:48 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found this delightful and moving.

None of us have read the artist's statement, so all the opinions about what happened and what the patients/models were briefed on have been conjecture. But: I disagree that they were made to look clownish. The makeup was tasteful for all of them, just topped with wild wigs. Since we're all assuming things, I would venture that this was a better approach than making them look conventionally "pretty" since they're all well aware that the progress of their illness has made them look different and attempts to replicate "normal" looks might leave them feeling lacking. What they shot was not quotidian street-style, but it's still a form of glamour.
posted by psoas at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My mum was at home pretty much the entire time she was sick and about a week before she passed, she asked me to have her hair stylist come in to dye her hair pink (as it had been prior to her illness) so it would match the headstone she'd chosen, not to mention her baby blue toenails. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), she passed before the appointment could happen. On a similar note, she also wanted no black to be worn at her funeral.

A sort of amusing story in the same vein, she told us she wanted a white oak casket; nothing depressing. I totally fucked up and thought she meant she wanted an oak casket that was painted white. The funeral home people had never had this request before and had no idea where to get one. We spent days trying to figure it out, only to find a car repair shop hours away that was willing to spray the oak casket white for five hundred bucks. The day it was to be sprayed, a close friend who had spoken to my mum clarified for me that all she wanted was an oak casket in a natural light wood colour. We were within an hour of having a spray painted casket.
posted by gman at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I feel kinda bad about my earlier angry comments about this. Ultimately, illness is too personal a thing for me to comment on w/o a) being impacted by the particular illness myself and b) knowing the whole story (e.g., whether there were some people who were really freaked out in a bad way so those pictures weren't included).

I do hate the paintbrushing of the ill and the corporatizing of the personal, but hey, gotta raise money somehow, I guess.
posted by angrycat at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


From here: "The first took place in Brussels in June, where the Mimi Foundation and Leo Burnett reunited the photographer Vincent Dixon and the director Coban Beutelstetter."

That offers a few tidbits.
- The participants may be French, but were not in France -- they were in Brussels.
- There is no "artist's statement" because the "artist" is an advertising agency. The photographer they hired does not display this work on his website (or even mention it, as far as I could find). The directory doesn't seem to have a website, but he posts on Vimeo (and does not mention this work).

The Mimi Foundation offers wig and makeup tips (and standard makeovers) for cancer patients. These people were getting a makeover from that foundation, asked to keep their eyes closed, and then an ad agency photographed them when they opened their eyes.
posted by Houstonian at 9:13 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I thought it was going to be some "look, we made you look 'normal' again!" heavy caked on makeup sillyness. So I was pleased to find out this was a video about having a sense of humor. (Although with everyone else I do hope the participants weren't under the wrong impression. I choose to assume they knew, or else got to choose if they wanted to keep this one or get a more traditional makeover.)
posted by Secretariat at 9:33 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here is other work Leo Burnett France has done for Mimi Foundation -- the "Rebuild Their Image" campaign.
posted by Houstonian at 9:48 AM on December 8, 2013


I wonder about exploitation and the nature of storytelling in these regards sometimes, largely as I've been writing about the stretch in which I became the primary caretaker for my poet mentor as he was undergoing treatment for advanced stage lung cancer.

The trouble with my friend is that he was catalyst for delight, exasperation, anger, and humor at his best, and this proved to be true at his worst, too, as the combinations of drugs brought on dementia in a guy who was never fully all there even when he wasn't riddled with medication ports and target tattoos.

I had moments of him screeching across the drug store at me, "Joe! This wretched woman at the pharmacy counter is trying to deny me rock hard erections!" and moments like when he "found" his escaped kitten, except that it was actually a giant violent feral orange near-bobcat that clawed him to ribbons, pissed in my eyes, and otherwise destroyed his house before I could beat it out the door with a broom.

So much of the time I spent caring for the guy was a roller coaster of misery and deranged humor, and the humor is what kept it all going, at the worst of it.

He decided he needed to visit a friend in California, and I had to patiently, then impatiently, explain to him that a suitcase full of flippers, a smoking jacket, one sock, one pair of tuxedo pants, twenty-three tubes of topical testosterone cream, one shirt, and no notions or replacement underpants was not going to suffice. I did my best to summon up my inner Jeeves, but these times were not the best, and sometimes I just had to bounce between gallows humor and making notes for a future chapter in a future book. I repacked his bag, with him angrily telling me that I was getting it all wrong.

"But I need the testosterone in case I get lucky!" he snapped.

"David, if you get lucky while you're slathered in twenty-three tubes of fucking topical testosterone gel, the poor woman you happen to be with is going to end up with a handlebar mustache."

He stopped and pondered.

"Should I pack mustache wax?"

I took him to the airport and started to check him in. I'd carefully composed notes detailing his name, identifying information, flight information, contact info for me, destination information and anything else I could find, and pinned copies inside his vicuna overcoat, to his shirt, in his pants pocket, in and on his luggage, and placed a copy in his luggage. I was taking time off from a construction job and was in my full rig, with overalls and Leatherman tools dangling off me, and when the gate agent saw him manifesting some overt signs of dementia, had to beg her and her supervisor to let him through, which she did, and in the end they took us through security without any checks at all.

"Joe?"

"Yes?"

"Is that a knife on that clip?"

"Uh, oh...yeah, it is." It occurred to me that I was actually bristling with things that could be used to murder a pilot, and I suddenly got very tense.

"So, you're carrying a quantity of weapons inside an airport, in fact?"

"Yes, David, and shut up."

It also occurred to me that I'd been pretty dispeptic and disagreeable with my friend of late, worn down from the constant stress and frustration working through his illness, and that he was sporting a large and very threatening smile.

"Would be a shame if anyone pointed out that you're carrying weapons," he said, with the corners of that smile twirling into spirals. That smile hung there as a beatific rictus of genuine pleasure as we worked our way through the terminal to his gate.

I am going to die in a hail of bullets, I mused, but fortunately, I delivered him to his airplane without incident, escaped the airport without incident, and was pleased to find that he'd flown cross-country without attempting to open the airplane's door in flight.

He died, of course, though after some years of recovery and a stretch of just being alive and writing and performing and being himself again, and that January when he went was the first in which a tall, elegant gentleman failed to leave a half bottle of cognac and a rose on Edgar Allen Poe's grave, but I have nothing further to confess in that regard.

As I write and edit the stories I have from that time, I'm given to wonder if I'm going to have to face angry people who will tell me I'm exploiting my friend when I find the humor in the darkest times, but as I work on the manuscript and laugh out loud at the horror of the orange cat, the rock hard erections and mustachioed women, and the other strangely light notes in that melancholy symphony of a voice being muffled, I can only remind myself that I own those stories now, and they go hand in hand with the love and respect that made me spend two years working for free for a guy who'd alienated everyone else in his life with the whims and wildness that comes with the most difficult kind of genius.

You'd think, maybe, that I'm making fun, but we were really just having it, whenever it was possible, even in flashes and glimpses.

Posthumously reading through my manuscript, as he had for my writing while he was alive, he'd be annoyed at the appearance of his worst excesses, then he'd think again, remember that, as he exemplified in his own work, that it's all grist for the mill, particularly when the better story calls for a harsher light, and shrug.

"Upon reflection, Joe, I think I'd rather still be alive," he'd say, I suspect, but he'd be smiling, too.
posted by sonascope at 9:58 AM on December 8, 2013 [64 favorites]


Reading through the thread I had the idea that they were literally given "clown" makeovers with the white and red face paint, red nose, rainbow wig. That would have been awful. These people seemed like they already had their "normal" make up under control and didn't really need a standard make over, and all their interviews were talking about not being able to enjoy themselves any more. That is what I think makes this okay.
(The fact that's done by an ad agency for the purpose of raising more money makes it kind of gross. Why does everything have to be an ad.. why does money have to be raised for this instead of just given..)
posted by bleep at 10:59 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Commercialization of the ill is tacky. This overproduced, overprofessional, ad agency-driven video is tacky.

The actual reaction and delight of shown by the participants is great fun. I hope they all got a real kick out of it.

It's a shame the kind and fun human bit of it all has to be wrapped in tacky exploitation.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:46 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


My Opa would have been all over something like this.

A Buchenwald liberator, he had already Seen Some Shit in his day, so when he got his diagnosis - metastasized lung cancer - he sort of shrugged and went on about his daily life as best he could, punctuated by radiation and chemo and all the horrific things that go on during aggressive treatment of a ghastly illness.

When his hair started falling out, he said "Well, grass don't grow on a busy street, Peach.", and called my Aunt over to shave his head. She pulled out the scissors, snipped once, and said "This isn't working." So Opa fetched the vacuum cleaner, and my Aunt vacuumed his head, then drew grass on it with a green magic marker. "Astroturf!", Opa said.

He passed 13 months later. But during the entirety of that 13 months, he delighted in that moment of silliness.
posted by MissySedai at 11:54 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think there is an interesting split here between those with a utilitarian ethical stance (were the patients happy with the outcome?) and those with a deontological stance (regardless of the patients' feelings, was the non-profit or the ad agency exploiting, deceiving or using the patients?).

Personally I think it's the outcome that's important, but that is an empirical question it's hard to know the answer to.
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:19 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why on earth is it hard to believe that someone might not prefer to be made up to look like a news anchor or Banana Republic catalog model? How is the fun, campy, awesome, goofy wig/makeup thing an insult?!

Plucking someone—who is obviously game for some makeup play and camera time—out of their illness-focused routine for a bit, fussing over them and pampering them for a couple hours, then thrusting them into a moment in which all they're able to articulate is, "Eeeeeeeee! Ha ha ha!" for a couple minutes isn't mean.
posted by heyho at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The participants may be French, but were not in France -- they were in Brussels.

Considering that Belgium is a French speaking country which shares about half its border with France, most of which is closer to Paris than most of France, this observation strikes me as quite meaningless.
posted by localroger at 12:39 PM on December 8, 2013


This video reminded me of a day years ago when I went to see the woman who cut my hair, and she was crying. She told me that a woman dying of cancer had just had an appointment with her, that this woman had asked my friend to do her hair for her funeral, and the appointment just prior to mine was to be a "dress rehearsal."

She told me that after the appointment, when she turned the woman around so she was facing the mirror, the woman said, with tears in her eyes, "You have made me so beautiful. Now I know I am ready to die."
posted by 4ster at 12:47 PM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Very sweet.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:56 PM on December 8, 2013


Bits and pieces of me fall apart left and right, but I'd like to hope that at the very last the one thing left was humor.

I really, really enjoyed the stories above from those whose loved ones kept their humor to the last. I doubt that my kids could deal with it if I worked the program for a good laugh, but if I possibly can, I'll try to shock them a bit.

I once had a new patient, a tiny little woman who wore long prairie-type dresses and bonnets (yes, bonnets!). She looked fragile and "cute," and who, honestly, wants to be considered "cute" when they're old and have lived full, hard lives, anyway? Anyway, "cute" was the first thing that came to mind when you met her. The first night I was preparing her for bed, I combed her hair, got her flannel nightgown on, brushed her teeth and washed her face, and, as we headed for the bed, she suddenly said, "oh - you forgot to clean this" and she popped out her glass eye and dropped it in my hand. I, of course, stammered around and babbled something, and she threw her head back and laughed - she said she just loved doing that to new caregivers - it was about the only fun she had anymore. She was a great little prankster.

I think the people who took part in this had a pretty good idea what was going on and were willing to step into a little bit of theater when nothing else makes sense anyway.
posted by aryma at 2:22 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Before I went through chemo it was made clear that the medications involved would make my hair fall out. All of my hair: head, beard, eyebrows, nostrils, arms, legs and all the bits in between.

I decided that I'd get my head shaved before I started to find clumps of hair on the pillow, or circling the drain in the shower. Surprisingly, I found this to be one of the most uplifting parts of the whole experience as it was one of the few things that I was in complete control of. No one forced me to do it, it was my choice. It also afforded me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong ambition of having a Mohawk - albeit a brief dalliance.

At the time of my treatment I had a complete beard – I’d been too exhausted in the preceding months prior to diagnosis to bother to shave. This I decided to keep and as my treatment began and continued it became a little game I played - which hairs were the strongest of the bunch to survive the weed killer I was being pumped full of. Again, something small that I was in control of (well, kind of) and that kept my mind off what else was happening.

I would have loved to do a project such as that in the video – although I suspect that being asked to keep my eyes closed for that amount of time would have just resulted in me nodding off, an all too frequent practice while undergoing and recuperating from treatment.

As for the people in the video, once the initial surprise has hit, most of them seem to break out into a smile or are laughing. At that point the videoed reactions end, so, anything more I could say would be just speculation (although as all 20 participants appear in the book, I would speculate that they were OK with the result).
posted by zedbends at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2013


How many more people participated in the makeover and got righteously pissed off when they saw the results? Given the standard makeover practices with cancer patients that sio42 mentions, if a person goes in thinking they're going to look nice and instead they open their eyes to discover that these people have made them look like a clown... do you really think that no one cried?

Unless the ad copy is outright lying (totally possible! it's ad copy!) there were 20 participants. I think we see 19 of them in the video and none of them weep. I really think the participants knew that the intention was to make them up fantastically rather than as they would look if they weren't ill.

The fact that a roomful of their friends, families, and fellow patients reacts with appreciative laughter rather than shock and anger is also tilting my impression towards the notion this is a fun adventure rather than a mean prank.
posted by gingerest at 6:02 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love this.

My mother died in July of cancer, after a 3 year battle. She would have loved loved loved to do this. She was always such a traditionally beautiful woman, and when her hair started growing back after chemo she would dye it and give herself a mohawk. I think a lot of folks that have to live with cancer for a while take things a lot less seriously than those of us prone to self-righteous indignation.
posted by fyrebelley at 11:10 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Around 2:50 on for about 5 seconds sold this for me.
The surprise and then the very real smile.
I would like to think that if I got that sick, I would do this.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:54 AM on December 10, 2013


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