Cancer survivor tells her story
Lifetime's interest in her book led the writer to take a job with the network.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- As she's wheeled into the operating room to undergo a mastectomy the day after her 28th birthday, Geralyn Lucas applies her bright red lipstick.
"Under anesthesia, with a tube forced down my throat, I am hopeful and maybe even a little sexy. And slightly in control, just knowing that my lipstick might last," writes Lucas in her bold, irreverent 2004 memoir, "Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy."
The colorful odyssey of this breast-cancer survivor has been turned into a Lifetime movie, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m., with "Scrubs"' Sarah Chalke as Lucas. Commemorating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the film has become the centerpiece of Lifetime's 12-year "Stop Breast Cancer for Life" campaign.
Lucas also happens to be the network's director of public affairs.
"I went to work for Lifetime because of their breast-cancer campaign," she says on the phone from her office in New York. "They were very supportive when they heard I was writing this book. When they read it, they were, like, 'We love this. We want to do something with it.'"
Meredith Wagner, Lifetime's executive vice president of public affairs, acknowledges it was a "very unusual situation" making such a personal movie about a network executive.
"It's made Geralyn somewhat iconic around the halls here, and it has reaffirmed the company's commitment to the issue," Wagner says.
Funny and serious
Like the book, the film subtly blends humor with the heartbreak of surgery and chemotherapy, the fear of death, and the difficulties in coming to terms with what it really means to be a woman -- all with a long-lasting supermatte lipstick serving as a metaphor for hope and courage.
"When I put on the red lipstick, it did feel like this war paint, like this crazy preparation of going into battle," Lucas says. "You are just in for the fight of your life."
Chalke shot the mastectomy scene on her first day on the set. "And then we shot the chemotherapy scenes the next day," she says, "and those were really difficult because we were filming in a real chemo room in a hospital in Toronto.
"It just takes your breath away when you walk in there," continues Chalke, who lost an aunt and a grandmother to cancer. "There's a bunch of arm chairs with IV poles with the bags of chemotherapy and the skull and crossbones sticker on the bag. It made me feel for all those women who have to walk in there for the first time."
Today, one in eight women will develop breast cancer, notes Wagner. "There is a tremendous urgency right now," she says, "even though awareness is greater, the urgency is early detection."
Recording artists India.Arie and Pink teamed up for the film to perform a special version of India.Arie's 2005 single, "I Am Not my Hair," an homage to women who have lost their hair from chemotherapy.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.