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A Fictional Inspiration of Nonfictional Proportion
As the videographer zooms in on the scene in the hospital, you see a young lady. She’s pale, really pale. Her pallor even runs through her lips and bare head that look blue from anemia and cyanosis. She has a very anxious look on her face, yet she manages to give off a faint, yet genuine smile.
This young lady is Kate Fitzgerald from the movie My Sister’s Keeper. I know there is a book based off of it, and I know that would be a more accurate portrayal of Kate’s character, but I have not read the book yet, and besides, I thought Sofia Vassileva did a fantastic job of portraying Kate. A young Meryl Streep is what Sofia is to me.
Kate has a rare form of cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Leukemia is cancer of the blood-forming organs, such as white blood cells and bone marrow.
When I watched this film in health class for the first time (and then preceded to watch the rest at home online off of Amazon Instant Video with my leftover gift card money), I was absolutely captivated and mesmerized to say the least about Kate’s free spirit.
I have read many books and watched many movies with and about kids with cancer in them, and of course they all touched me in some way, but Kate's spunky, sometimes even saucy personality resonated through every part of my being.
Kate is not the protagonist of the story, contrary to what one might think. The protagonist is her her sister Anna (Abigail Breslin), who was conceived by means of in vitro fertilization. The reason her parents (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) chose to undergo IVF was controversial. Anna was conceived to be a perfect chromosomal match to Kate. That way, if Kate needed bone marrow, blood, or many other things, the doctors could be sure that Kate would be getting a perfect match.
Until Anna is 11 years old,, she complies to every procedure. However, that year, when Anna is forced to give a kidney to Kate, she files a law suit against her parents for medical emancipation with help of slick and savvy TV lawyer, Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) who shows great interest in Anna's case.
Anna, heard weeping and yelping from the other room. She came into find her sister’s nose dripping with blood, while she was choking on her cries. They both had an extremely guilty look on the face, almost as if to tacitly say with their facial expressions, “I’m sorry, sissy.” This reminded me of me and my own sister sometimes, as she sees urine or blood on the floor from when I hit my head or didn’t get to the bathroom on time. Yet, as I think about it, it is so much different than my life anyways. I’m not bald, I don’t have nose bleeds every five seconds, and I don’t have to come to terms with the fact that there is more than likely a possibility that I might die soon, but I don’t know when.
Kate and Anna's relationship reminded me so much of me and my own sister. Claudia gave up so much for me and I just feel so guilty sometimes. “I see what other kids do, they go to parties and they get to go to the beach.” I could just envision that coming out of Claudia's mouth. Also the time when Kate called Anna into the room: “Sissy!” and she had to wipe her face, that was very much the same to us. I cried then too.
There were other similarities with family dynamics besides the sisters. One scene, Kate's mother and father, Sara and Brian come into their daughter's room after she has been lying in bed for two weeks. While Brian takes a softer approach, gently persuading her, but also consoling her, Sara basically forces her with stern words. It's not that Sara doesn't love Kate, it's more that Sara opts for tough love: “But I'm sick and I'm tired and I'm ugly.” said Kate candidly over cries. People may mistake Sara's way to be cruel, but it is rooted by love. This reminded me so much of the juxtaposition of my mum and dad.
I guess you could say that Kate had gotten used to it, but I think she was already made to be like this. Kate is happy, cancer or not. I don’t think her cancer changed much about her positivity. Of course she would have the occasional “woe as me” moment, but her spirit wasn’t shattered by her illness. I admire people like that, because I, who only has a moderate case of cerebral palsy feel like I want to give up half the time.
I don’t think it was the cancer that taught her to love life. I remember one of the scenes in the movie: Kate tricks the nurse into thinking she drank her own urine sample when she fills the medical jar with apple juice and says “What a b****!”as she leaned back and laughed a very similar laugh to me.
Kate's father, Brian said that even though the Fitzgerald family certainly is exposed to aspects of daily family life, there are certainly a decent number of bumps and cracks along the way. When he said this was a scene where the family was playfully blowing bubbles. Kate make sure that those bumps and cracks are smoothed over for her and her family by doing things like blowing bubbles, going to the beach, and eating pizza. Point blank, she does not let her illness inhibit any carefreeness, unlike many other patients with her ruthless disease. Unlike Kate, they may let it take its malevolent course in trying to destroy any lighthearted moments.
Despite her “good sport” mentality, I would not nessecarily describe Kate Fitzgerald as being stoic. Sure, she is strong, tough, and tenacious, however, when she is tough, she is tough, and when she isn't, she isn't. What I mean by this is that when Kate does happen to get emotional, she doesn't bottle it up and she is greatly uninhibited when she feels so. There is a particular scene in the movie that displays this, but I'm not going to tell it because it will spoil some secrets, but I admire Kate for the great equilibrium that she happens to display with her emotions.
Also, relating to the topic of Kate's emotions ,there are times throughout the movie where I just feel like balling my eyes out, not only because it is sad, but because Kate reminds me so much of myself. One of the similar traits that Kate and I have are spontaneous outbursts of rage. There was a scene where I wanted to cry, because it brought back so many things. Anna could hear the most angry music booming from her sister's room. She opened the door to find Kate, a wreck of emotional pain, bitter as ever. When Anna got closer and closer into the room, the more furious Kate became, almost like her soul had morphed into an angry beast because of how angry she felt with everything. A shrill of fury boomed out of Kate's mouth, as she knocked down the photo frames in her room and her sister grabbed her tightly and shreiked “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!'' This is exactly what happens with me.
What makes Kate and I so dissimilar though, is that even though we've both had to come to terms with the fact that there might be an early death, although I was a newborn infant, she is so accumstomed to it. Nothing phases her anymore, and while she feels like she will survive, she's okay with that too, and she is content and complies to everything. She had to undergo countless numbers of operations, while I only had one and two very minor ones when I was little. Everybody praises me, but kudos to Kate.
The first time I went to New York City, I was 13 years old. I absolutely fell in love with it, and now I would die to live and go to college there and I plan on both. My New York City is Kate's Montana. She loves Montana and at the very beginning of the movie, that was the first key component to who she is as a person, after mention that she is the one with leukemia. She reads travel guides on it on several occasions throughout the movie. I admire her for verging on obsession with a particular place, akin to me.
The young woman is also extremely compassionate, especially towards her family. When they feel like breaking down, Kate is “to the rescue” and there to placate them. She is there to rub their backs and be their guardian angel, as she is truly grateful for all the sacrifice that her family has given her as she expresses in the film under a B-roll narrating. I wish I could've been as grateful and her over the years, and even though I am grateful for all the sacrifice that my family has been obliged to provide for me, I don't always openly express it as often as I should.
I've never had a stronger connection with a fictional character before ever in my life. Kate reminded me of myself so much. The difference is Jodi Picoult, Nick Cassavettes, and Sofia Vassileva (the author of the book, the director of the film, and the actress who played Kate ), simply opted to omit the bad parts that I see in my personality.
Kate Fitzgerald is strong-willed, fun-loving, and a free spirit. She inspired me to be a better person. I would highly recommend this movie, unless you are particually squeamish, as there are some graphic scenes throughout Also if you are unable to handle heavy subject matter. I thank Kate for impacting my life in such a big way. I hope those who haven't seen the movie will, because I want you to experience the magic that is Kate Fitzgerald for herself. I have bestowed upon her the middle name Sofia to honor the Sofia that played her, who was also the title character in the movie, Eloise, which was also one of my favorite films. You can never replace Kate Sofia Fitzgerald. I felt like I knew her and I felt like we we somehow strangely connected. Kate was like a sister to me almost and I will honor her as such.