Peter HortonAir Date
1/23/90, 7/24/90Guest Stars
Patricia Heaton as Dr. Silverman; Chip Zien as Dr. Verney; Tess Harper as Deb; Elizabeth Hoffman as Eleanor Krieger; David Clennon as Miles DrentellSynopsis
Nancy recovers from her hysterectomy and her sister, Deb, is the only one who truly understands.Summary
Nancy Is Okay: Elliot calls Hope to say that Nancy's surgery went well, reassuring Ethan on the phone. When Nancy wakes up, she groggily asks to go home.Notes
Friends and Relations: Nancy passes the time in the hospital by making cranky remarks and pestering her mother. Her doctor is extremely efficient. Hope comes to visit and it becomes apparent that not everyone in the circle knows that she's had surgery. Hope tells Melissa later, saying that there will probably be chemotherapy later.
A Strange Bird: Nancy asks about chemotherapy while everyone distributes raspberry candy.
A Sister: Nancy's sister Debbie arrives and Eleanor tries to relate to her, but it's obvious that things are tense.
Banana Bread: Ellyn arrives at the hospital with a plant and some banana bread. As usual, the visit rapidly disintegrates, but Ellyn tries hard, even offering to babysit. Nancy arrives home to ecstatic children and a bevy of concerned people. Ethan has made a huge welcome home sign.
A Quiet Morning: Susannah has called to ask how things are as Elliot gets the kids ready for school. Nancy gets out of bed even though she shouldn't. Deb comes over and they mull through the usual stresses with their mother. Elliot drops by, bantering with Deb, and carrying a huge load of banana bread. Nancy begins to murmur that she would like the kids to be around more instead of shuffled off to everyone else. At work, Elliot starts calling around, looking for more information and books about ovarian cancer.
Nancy Misses Her Kids: Nancy asks Deb to stay over, but she passes again. Melissa and Gary come over to Hope and Michael's and they discuss Nancy's condition.
The Colors Look Different: Hope comes over with more banana bread and Nancy reacts, finally insisting that she wants to be with her kids. Nancy tries to work with her art, but something is holding her back. Elliot keeps blindly insisting that he'll take care of her while Nancy tries to tell him that the colors just look different now. In the midst of a family morning, Nancy tries to go to the art center while Deb and Eleanor bicker about the doctor's instructions and Elliot hovers. After Nancy leaves, Eleanor finally blows up about her fears for Nancy.
Hope and Michael throw one of their huge dinner parties which seems to be going pretty well until Elliot realizes that Nancy has fallen asleep in her chair (quite naturally, like hibernating bears, she becomes irritable when roused). Getting ready for bed, Nancy finally vents to Elliot, saying that she doesn't want to be gracious and cheerful about what's happening. Deb is finally sleeping over at their house, so early the next morning, Deb, Nancy, and Eleanor, finally have some sort of resolution. Deb leaves for the airport to return to Indiana and they part tearfully as Nancy sees her best source of support leaving.
Taking a short walk, Hope finally manages to connect with Nancy by sharing her own fears in giving birth to Janey. Nancy is most scared that Britty won't remember because she's so young, afraid that Britty will feel she's been abandoned. Elliot and Nancy are finally alone at the house, Elliot finds it difficult to listen to her talk honestly about the despair that she feels, finally facing his fears at losing her when he's just gotten her back again.
That night, they order pizza in and watch The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn with the kids in the bedroom.
There's a running joke with banana bread Grendel appears by name, barking at a squirrel Deb's husband is Paul, kids Jack, Allison, Lily Deb has been a nurse for 15 years and dropped out of Ohio State Opener clip of Nancy in a tweed overcoat hugging Ethan and Britty Deb and Eleanor haven't seen each other for two years Deb and Elliot call each other Jules Michael plays with a crossbow at DAA Nancy had a complete hysterectomy Nicholas has destroyed three of Ethan's lunchboxes The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is mentioned The Nancy's book illustrations are created by Michael Hague
"I can't drive without ovaries?" --NancyAnalysis
"Britty hates Coco Mitchell. She bites!" --Nancy
"Oh, for heaven's sakes--I had a hysterectomy, not a lobotomy!" --Nancy
"Gives new meaning to the words publish or perish, doesn't it?" --Nancy
I hadn't seen "post-op" since it originally aired and the last time it reran on Lifetime I was, ironically, in the hospital (and my stepfather forgot to tape it like I asked!) However, even as a writer, I'm at a loss for words to describe how perfectly the episode captured the essence of cancer diagnosis and surgery and all its attendant fears and reactions. (Note, they mention Nancy's stage--1C--and that it was indeed early as I suspected; I didn't recall that from so long ago nor did it mean anything to me at age 17. However, the fact that they did include it when the general public had little chance of understanding it impresses me even more about "thirtysomething!")
Everyone's fear and helplesslessness in the face of Nancy's cancer truly hit home. My poor mom, much like Eleanor, almost feels responsible for my health crises, and sometimes I think the struggle is tougher on her than me--actually, I'm glad that I'm the one enduring cancer rather than having to watch someone I love fight the good fight. My fiance is a good deal like Elliot, if only that he tends to avoid the subject and tries to make light of things rather than confront the scary truth. And poor Ellyn--well, she's typical of most people who just don't know what to do or say. (In fact, I believe that when someone's been diagnosed with an illness out of the blue, at a young age or just generally "when they weren't supposed to be," it raises questions of mortality and terrifies everyone: in other words, Could it happen to me too? God, no!)
I can also relate to Nancy's state of mind, how it's impossible for her to be the same person and see life the same way when fate has thrown a wrench into her plans and assaulted her body. (Note subtitle "The colors have changed.") "I feel like I'm screaming and yelling and no one seems to hear!" she cries, and "I had a hysterectomy, not a lobotomy!" Actually, I haven't had a hysterectomy, but after each surgery or treatment, there is that tendency for others to treat you like glass, and the truth is, physically and emotionally, you are incredibly fragile. Susan Shilliday's script was so on-target, in fact, it makes me wonder if she or someone very close to her went through a similar ordeal--either that, or she did amazingly heartfelt research.
Another thought: I almost think that I'm going to force my family and friends to watch this episode so they can really understand "where I'm coming from." In fact, perhaps this is good advice for others, God forbid they find themselves in the same position as Hope and the gang: ACT JUST LIKE HOPE DID. I know lots of viewers have a bone of contention with Ms. Murdoch and that borders on blasphemous when she's occasionally so judgmental and moralistic, but her reaction to Nancy's cancer was incredibly touching and gracious. (Even if she does naively link childbirth to cancer, I can sense her emotion and logically see the analogy.) "I don't understand," she tells Nancy, her eyes welling with tears, "but I will try." That's exactly what I would've liked to hear. At least she doesn't run away or use ridiculous platitudes, like "You look good," although the speakers only mean well.
Throughout the playing of the Nancy cancer episodes, I'd be interested in hearing from other cancer survivors and caretakers of loved ones to see if they found this as "cinema verite" as I did.
"Banana bread is also a very age-appropriate reference. Everyone in my generation used to bake banana bread for some God-unknown reason (I hate the stuff, but I used to bake it too)."
"I think the casting of Tess Harper as Nancy's sister is superb. Anyway, I too was puzzled that Susannah would call Elliot - that anyone would call Elliot but, once again, I digress - there is however, a tenuous connection there. Dr. Silverman is the same alarmingly cranky ob-gyn who delivered Susannah's baby, so maybe there was some kind of sharing doctor stories thing going on. You know what else puzzled me? How come everyone was so mean and cold to Ellyn from the second she walked in to the hospital room, even before she had a chance to react inappropriately to Nancy's illness?
The dashed line marks the point where the original version of Lisa's page ended. Here is information added by Bob Fahey: