The LuLu Sessions—Breast Cancer Can’t beat Love

Friendship prevails in dark times

Posted Oct 16, 2013

October 16, 2013

The LuLu Sessions, a new award-winning documentary by Casper Wong, is a unique and extraordinary portrayal of a unique and extraordinary woman, Dr. Louise Nutter, in her last 18 months of life.  LuLu wisecracks, smokes, drinks and swears from the opening shot—as she gets the call informing her of her diagnosis.  “Hello.  You have breast cancer.  Have a nice day,” she quips, before lighting up. Surgery is scheduled a week later, and she’s introduced to the world of chemo, collapsed lungs, IV’s and oxygen tanks. She faces mortality statistics she knows all too well, as an internationally renowned medical researcher who was even mentioned as a possible Nobel Prize recipient.  Her physical trials are made worse by family drama; some siblings can’t bring themselves to forgive her flaws.

But relationship, and not cancer, is the heartbeat of the film.  LuLu’s deep and engaging friendship with Casper is a testament to love and how powerful and influential another person can be in our lives. Nutter is not and has not been an easy person to get along with. She is a character, to say the least, and acknowledges that her behavior has cost her some relationships, a fact which she now regrets. But though her friendship with Wong hit the rocks on several occasions, they both struggle to reconcile, forgive, and cherish each other despite the hardships.  Someone remarks at her final birthday/farewell party that LuLu has the most tender heart of anyone he’s ever met, and we get to see that light, through the eyes of a very loving friend and companion. 

Wong makes clear their relationship was intense: they once spent 16 hours straight on the phone with each other. LuLu wrote her letters every 2-3 days. Henry Adams, 19th century journalist, once wrote “one friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, three are hardly possible.” LuLu, clearly, is that one friend never to be forgotten.

The film was extremely touching to me, and I strongly encourage you to see it.  It will be screening in San Francisco this Thursday and Friday, and in New York on October 21st and 22nd

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about relationships, particularly in the digital era. As Sherry Turkle has noted, we are “connected, but alone.”  The depiction of LuLu and Casper, creating relationship in phone calls, letters and actual conversation was particularly poignant; these seem to be displaced by the internet in the last few years. I’ve actually just finished my own book manuscript, charting the psychology of social networking and its effects on the self and relatedness.  Please sign up for my newsletter at to find out about my book, Facebuddha:  Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks.  

© 2013 Ravi Chandra, M.D. All rights reserved.  

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