________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000

cover My Healing Journey: Seven Years With Cancer.

Joseph Viszmeg (Director, Writer & Editor). Jerry Krepakevich (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
44 min., 39 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 106.

Subject Headings:
Viszmeg, Joe.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Joan Payzant.

*** /4

Joseph Viszmeg is the director, writer and editor of My Healing Journey: Seven Years with Cancer, a follow-up to his film of 1995, My Own Time: Diary of a Cancer Patient. When he was first diagnosed with the rare form of adrenal cancer in 1991, Joe Viszmeg, a graduate of Ryerson University, could not believe it. But, after a serious operation in southern California, he was told he would have about a year to live. Determined to fight his foe, he completed his first documentary in 1995. Amazingly, after more operations and chemotherapy, he produced this second video in 1998. It is blended with his first one, an idea which those viewers who like linear history will find confusing as Viszmeg is shown as an older man, completely bald as a result of chemotherapy, and then as a slim young man with lots of black hair. This intertwining of time periods happens over and over, and so it is difficult to track when a certain operation took place in relation to other treatments such as chemotherapy.

As a single parent to Stella, his little daughter, Viszmeg had good motivation to fight the disease, but he gained even more determination when he married Rachel (who proposed to him), and they eventually added little Joe to their family. Family scenes, shots of Stella and little Joe are further clues to the passage of time.

During the years after 1991, Joe Viszmeg tried anything that promised hope for curing his cancer: a smoking ceremony with a Sioux Indian, Yoga, transcendental meditation, eating shark cartilage. He willingly drank terrible tasting medicine, took a drug called Mitotane to give him a few more months of life, had four spots removed from his left lung, and had his spleen removed. When his doctor refused to operate any more, Viszmeg decided to try chemotherapy. After several treatments, a CAT scan showed that his tumors had shrunk by half, and so he continued on with the chemo.

The video ends with Joe and Rachel watching Stella starting out on a bicycle race, little Joe with them and now old enough to enjoy being out with his dad, and more importantly old enough to remember his father if he should die. The scenery is of glorious autumn colours, trees with leaves of gold. Joe expresses appreciation of the love he has received which has kept him alive, and he beseeches viewers to find love and give it back, whether it be to parents, children, friends, or lovers.

There the video ends, with Joe's final advice. Not long after, he was vanquished by his old foe, cancer. However his films will give other cancer patients hope that they, too, can hold the enemy at bay using determination and love of life as their allies.

A thoughtful, sensitive video bringing understanding and hope to cancer patients and their families.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Payzant is a former teacher-librarian of Dartmouth, NS.

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ISSN 1201-9364