Reality took a Hollywood turn for cancer survivors Alexis Hodges, 19, and C.J. Evans, 17, who are members of a support group for teens with cancer at Akron Children’s Hospital. Both landed small roles in the film, The Fault in Our Stars, as members of a cancer support group.
The movie, based on the best-selling novel by John Green, follows the love story of two young adult cancer patients who meet in a support group. Hodges and Evans learned about the open casting call for the movie through their group.
Once cast, they spent a few long Saturdays in Pittsburgh last summer shooting their scenes and hanging out with stars – Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, as well as Green.
“One of my favorite things about the movie so far is that they cast real cancer survivors for the support group,” said John Green in an interview from the set.
Hodges was diagnosed with leukemia at age 13 and became the first patient at Akron Children’s to undergo a bone marrow transplant by an unrelated donor. She has been in remission for five years. Evans, a junior in high school, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 12.
Both teens point out that their experiences as part of Akron Children’s group differs from what appears on-screen. Known simply as “teen group,” the meetings are led by child life specialist Brenda Powell and psychologist Laura Gerak and stress fun, social activities. Mostly, the group allows teens to support each other in ways that even the most well-meaning parent or adult caregiver cannot.
“Members come and go, but a core group seems to be a constant,” said Gerak. After the death of a teen group leader, the group disbanded for a time before reorganizing.
“Sometimes they avoid talking about topics I know they should be talking about,” Gerak said. “That’s where Brenda and I may step in.”
One line from the book, which resonates with Hodges and Evans is when the character Augustus asks Hazel, “What’s your story?” and she starts discussing her diagnosis. “No, no no,” he says, “your real story.”
“I like that attitude,” said Evans. “Yes, you have cancer, but you don’t make a big deal about it.”
Find out more about Akron Children’s Hospital here.