And then it all got kind of weird. There had been talk of Diane and I going to New York on Tuesday to be part of the audience for the live taping of the Dr. Oz Show. By Sunday night we hadn’t heard whether tickets were available, so Diane and I decided it wasn’t going to happen. There was no school on Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day, and I took Pete and a friend of his to lunch and a film. Around 1:30 p.m., messages were left on my cell phone and our land line by a producer (not the same one I interviewed with). I didn’t listen to these messages until a little after 5 p.m. What I heard was that the tapes were great, and they really wanted all three of us to be part of the live show. I called back, and was told, ‘oh hi Linnea, sorry, due to time constraints, we couldn’t reserve a place for you’. Um, okay, I responded, feeling a bit stunned.
I then called Diane, who had also left a message, and who relayed that both she and the other interviewee, Eileen, would be traveling to New York on the network’s dime and would be scripted into the show.
Talk about odd (wo)man out. Nonetheless, I said to Diane, well, that’s alright. However, her response was, ‘no, it’s not’ and I said, yeah you’re right. It’s kinda rude, and what about solidarity?
So I left a message on producer number two’s voice mail, expressing my misgivings about the propriety of this situation. I followed up with an email to producer number one, whom I’d felt such a connection with. As I described in brief what had transpired, I summed up my current emotional status in rather plain language; I said I felt hosed.
In the meantime, Diane (had my back, she did) called producer number two to say ‘hey, what’s up?’ That producer called me back, with all sorts of excuses, (time, budget, etc…) as well as the explanation that the first two out of the three of us to have called back were going to be on the show. But then why, I said, did you say in your message that you wanted all three of us? So, so sorry. Nothing personal. And that, in fact, the budget allowed for me to attend the show, but I would only be part of the audience. My response? No thanks, that would actually feel even worse than not going.
So then the first producer emails me back, very upset. This has all gone down without her knowledge. She is so sorry, and could she call me. I give her my number. She emails back that she’s been called into her boss’s office.
Some time later, she rings. Again, she apologizes (and I believe her, I feel she is truly a caring person). However, after talking with her boss, the bottom line is, there is no more room on the stage. Two experts, two guests (the other women), and Dr. Oz. Five max. But, I can come, and sit in the front row, and they might ask me one question.
I really like her. I do. We could be friends. So I tell her the truth: that I spent enough (humiliating) time in high school warming benches (I was the girl who tried out for everything but who also really sucked–probably key to my evolving tenacity), and that this felt like a consolation prize, and thanks for trying, but no thanks. And then I explained, that this wasn’t about personal glory. If I was going to be famous, I sure didn’t want it to be because I had lung cancer. That I agreed to do these media gigs in the first place, because I thought it was important, and the right thing to do. And that I was never compensated for my appearances (in fact, in order to make them happen, would rearrange my own schedule, often travel long distances, spend hours of my own (precious) time and even personal funds), but that the one thing I required in return was respect. And that had just been denied, this all felt really shitty, and I really wished the silly invitation to attend the show had never been extended in the first place.
It wasn’t her fault, (producer number one) and I continue to really like and respect her. And, without a doubt, the show went on without me.
Once, many moons ago, I followed a boyfriend to New Haven, where he was in school. I supported myself as a clerk at Dress Barn and posing as a figure model in the art school at Yale. I also lived in an old victorian with six other people, all students. My room was in the attic, in what was once the servants’ quarters, and across the hall was a brilliant young man working toward his PHD in physics. We became good pals, and one day he invited me to share his dinner. I sat and chatted with him as he stirred olive oil and garlic into spaghetti, and then watched, amazed, as he dished the pasta onto only one plate and then began to eat it.
“But Jonathon”, I said, “you invited me to join you”. “Yes”, he responded,” but it turns out there is only enough for one”.
That is what my experience with the Dr. Oz show ultimately felt like. I had been invited for dinner, but upon arriving, had been told there was no room at the table for me, and that perhaps I would like to take a seat in the pantry.
I’m certain Diane and Eileen performed admirably on Tuesday, and hopefully the show will bring more attention to lung cancer. I hope it will ultimately be something I can feel good about. For the moment, it has left a bad taste in my mouth.
The moral of the story; if you agree to participate in any sort of media project, realize that, just as the second producer said to me, it’s not personal.
im·per·sonal (im pʉr′sə nəl)
- not personal; specif.,
- without connection or reference to any particular person: an impersonal comment
- not existing as a person: an impersonal force
- not showing human feelings, esp. sympathy or warmth: don’t be so cold andimpersonal