“Grey’s Anatomy” Executive Producers Talk “Maggie’s Mom” & Inflammatory Breast Cancer

“Grey’s Anatomy” Executive Producers Talk “Maggie’s Mom” & Inflammatory Breast Cancer


I remember when we were starting to
crack this story, I had actually tossed out the idea of inflammatory breast
cancer as a possibility for the disease that afflicted Maggie’s mom and I knew a
bit about it at the time because a very good friend of mine had just died of it.
It was very sudden, it seemed, but she had had it for quite a while but when it
spread through her body and her brain it took her devastatingly quickly. I
felt terrible as soon as I said it. I felt that pang of guilt that you feel
when you’re throwing your friends and family’s personal tragedy to solve a
story problem. But I knew that it would be treated honestly and truthfully. It is an affliction that is so sudden. Your life is changed so dramatically and
it’s very difficult for you as a person or you as the family member of that
person to catch up to it. And so we struggle, and watching that
struggle I thought was really compelling part of the story. And I think also because our viewers loved Maggie and this was happening to her mom, for this
to be happening to her, it was like it was happening to them. So it really hit them I think in an emotional place, which took it even further than
just the plain storytelling could take. And then all the guilt went away
after the stories aired and we received a letter about a woman who had seen two
doctors about a rash on her breast and been told by both of them that they were
probably some sort of inflammation and that they would go away. And then she
watched our program and she decided to get a third opinion, and that third
doctor diagnosed her inflammatory breast cancer in time for her to be treated by
chemotherapy and now her prognosis is very good. On a personal note, my friend was a health professional and I couldn’t think of any better memorial for her than to have
helped just one more person and who knows how many more. But when you tell a
story about it, and people are into it and people know your characters, the
change in their mental viewing of it, the change in how they feel about it is
significant as compared to just a news story. You’re right — it feels like it’s happening
to a friend rather than just happening to a fictional character that you read
about or watched on TV. It feels like it’s happening to someone you’ve had
over every week — Every week in your house. It’s like it’s happening to you.

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