Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Have you seen the new trailer for The Fault in Our Stars, the adaptation of John Green’s bestselling novel?
It’s the story of a girl named Hazel Grace Lancaster, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 thyroid cancer with metastatis when she was 13 years old. Rather than a sentimental book, however, The Fault in Our Stars is an engaging, heart-wrenching, and – believe it or not -  funny story about what it’s like to be a teenager. She happens to have cancer, but the disease is only a part (albeit a major one) of her journey. It is through that unique lens that John Green lets us sympathize and even empathize with someone suffering in ways most of us have never experienced.

Thyroid cancer comprises just 1% of all cancer cases in the UK and the condition is actually quite rare in children, which is what makes Hazel Grace’s experience all the more unique – especially because she is based on a real person. Esther Earl, a teenager diagnosed with thyroid cancer before she died in 2010, became famous online for her video diary which dealt with her experience of cancer. She befriended John Green before her death, helping to inspire the character of Hazel Grace. A collection of her writings has just been published under the title This Star Won’t Go Out.

We’ve worked with thyroid cancer before at Branding Science, understanding the patient pathway from endocrinologist care to oncologist involvement in the metastatic stages – the sort of doctors Hazel Grace would have been seeing. We’ve also worked in understanding the treatment landscape. Although Hazel Grace was on a fictional drug (Phalanxifor), she would have actually been treated with a drug like Lenvatinib or Sorafenib.

Since it’s World Cancer Day today, Branding Science has been reflecting on how books like The Fault in Our Stars and This Star Won’t Go Out can bring rare diseases to light that might not otherwise have the attention, support, or even research they need. More than that, however, they bring the patients to life, underlining how life still goes even with a cancer diagnosis.

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