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Television Reviews : ‘Destined to Live’ a Look at Life After Cancer

Television is always running commercials. Here’s a program--"Destined to Live: 100 Roads to Recovery"--that’s a powerful advertisement for life.

Airing at 10 tonight on Channels 4, 36 and 39, the uplifting NBC special about breast cancer survivors is a collection of success stories. It’s a valuable hour that is beautifully produced in compelling documentary style, presenting testimony from many women, and one man, who have made or are making emotional and physical recoveries from the dreaded big “C.”

The subjects range from Gloria Steinem and First Lady Nancy Reagan to a gruff-talking female deputy sheriff and a woman whose supportive husband bought her a Frederick’s of Hollywood negligee after her breast surgery. There is one whose breast was removed 35 years ago; another had surgery only a week before she was interviewed for the program.

Their candor is remarkable considering society’s lingering anti-cancer bias, and their forthrightness becoming the program’s spiny strength as it helps to further lift the stigma from a disease that was once considered unmentionable.

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The program’s three producers--director Linda Otto, writer Sasha Ferrer and host Jill Eikenberry--are themselves breast cancer survivors, with Eikenberry’s own story threading much of this optimistic, yet honest hour.

Not that there aren’t some gaps. Although one can understand a wish to stress the positive and skip the statistical bog that often accompanies medical-related programs, a few figures about survival rates for patients with breast cancer would have been helpful. Moreover, the women in “Destined to Live” are heavily weighted toward the upper middle-class management and entertainment worlds, with society’s underprivileged getting relatively short shrift.

“Destined to Live” notes itself, after all, that breast cancer is one of society’s common denominators. So, fortunately, are hope and survival. As someone says tonight: “There is love after cancer. There is life after cancer. There is birth after cancer.”


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