From Hawaii to Maine, from Alaska to the Florida Keys, Hernan Barangan has taken his wheelchair and his camera to meet young people with cancer in every state of America. Capturing spell binding footage that tells their individual stories and which combines into a unified cry from this movement for change led by Teen Cancer America. They want a better understanding of their exceptional needs as a distinct group – not children and not yet fully adults. They must be seen and heard.
I’ve come a long way in one year. Looking back I can say I had no idea how far I’d be going. I just knew that I needed to go.
It was about this time last year that we kicked off the Road Rebellion. Our goal was to document the lives and experiences of at least one young cancer survivor per state. Together, their stories would be a ‘state of the union’ of what it’s like to be young and fighting cancer today. But I got so much more than stories.
When you pack up to start a road trip, you know you’re going to be in a car for a long time. I figured I would see a lot of cool places, get a lot of cool looking footage and possibly have to eat a lot of weird stuff. I’ve been on a road trip before, I know the drill. But I’ve never been on a drive where at each city I’d meet somebody truly amazing.
That’s at the heart of what has made this such an amazing experience. We’ve driven over 20,000 miles (BTW – that’s 5k miles short of the circumference of the Earth). I’ve been through all 50 states. And I’ve collected 24 Terabytes of footage.
But none of that means anything.
It’s the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made at every turn. I’ve heard your joys and your trials, your passions and your problems. And without fail there always comes the point when I catch myself hearing a little bit of myself in your words. Through cancer, we share an experience that is so intense that it’s hard to express. And yet our stories (and many times, our diagnoses) are so wildly different that you’d almost think we were from different planets.
Those feelings that we share are far more powerful than the variation in our medical charts or the miles that separate us.
I look back at the map that I hung when I started this project and its roads seem a little bit shorter. The pins no longer mark cities. They stand for Steven in Sacramento. Raeanna in New York. Dejon in Rapid City. Caitlin in Albuquerque. Sam in Cleveland. I want to keep listing but I’m going to run out of space.
We are everywhere.
And yet somehow we are still so scattered.
The hardest and most rewarding part of putting this film together was finding you all. And I know for each one of you there are countless others that are just plain unreachable.
As I close in on the last three states in the trip – that’s what I’m thinking about. How can we bridge the gap between us? How can we reach the others? How do we make life – and long term survivorship – better for all of us? The answer is simple. WE are the answer. Individually we have done some pretty amazing things. Together, there is nothing that can stop us.
So in June when I come back from filming in the last of the 50 states, don’t think by any means this is over. This is just beginning. (Aside from the fact that, yes, I have to edit all of this footage) But we have a big job to do. We have a lot to change about the youth cancer experience. And it starts with US.
Thank you for being part of my Cancer Rebellion.