HOW TO RUN A PRODUCTION COMPANY
While living (or dying) with stage 4 cancer.
By Chris Thibault
I am bent over on a hospital chair with my right foot on the floor and my left knee resting on the chair. My pants are pulled down just below my butt. I am sitting alone in a room at Dana Farber bent over with my full ass out waiting for the nurse to come back into the room. Oh, and the room doesn’t have real doors, just one of those thin hospital curtains. So at any point, someone could walk by and catch a glimpse. Is there anything more humiliating?
“Did it get cold in here?” I quietly asked my myself.
It felt chilly. I might as well be bending over in front of an open fridge.
The nurse finally comes in.
“How we doing? She asked with an over-the-top caring voice, like a firing squad was about to come in put some bullets in my crack.
I was anything but fine of course, mentally and physically, but that’s what you say.
She proceeded to stab both cheeks with an American-sized dose of Fulvestrant. They are combining this with the newly approved by FDA pill Piqray. Side note, this medication is made by Novartis, one of CHRIS TEEBO FILMS’ longtime clients. Check out one of the videos we created for them. Go figure. Since October though, I have tried 3 different chemo and hormonal treatments. All have failed. On to Number 4.
To make it worse, this is all happening a day after we buried my brother Brandon, who died after his long fight with melanoma.
He went through multiple treatments as well. It’s not hard to see what state my mind was in at this point. History has a tendency to repeat itself, unless…wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the title of this post…
How to Run a Production Company While Living (or Dying) with Stage 4 Cancer.
I haven’t figured that out quite yet. And to be honest I wrote the title to get your attention and actually start to read this thing. But make no mistake the cancer cells in my body are on a mission from hell to grow and kill me. Is it stage 4? Yes. Is it considered a terminal illness. Yes. Has it spread to my lungs, spine, ribs, hip and pelvic bone? Check. Do I cough constantly and get winded from simple things like walking up the stairs? Yessir. Is there a known medical cure? Nope.
But with all that, even with feeling like this, I really don’t think this thing is going to be the end of me. But I do know that I will have to change my whole life around and make huge sacrifices in order to survive. Because if I don’t do anything, I am as good as dead in a few years according to statistics. The hour glass has been turned over for a while now.
My skinny ass lifted weights for the first time in about 7 months the other day. I’m about 35 pounds lighter than I was back then, mostly all of it muscle weight. Funny story, going back to the butt shot story I mentioned earlier, I never realized how much muscle I had in my ass! After losing a bunch of weight I was towel drying out of the shower and noticed it wasn’t there! This was at a time when I was really feeling the effects of the tumor in my hip and couldn’t bend down at all. The atrophy in that portion of my body was really noticeable. Still is. It sucks because a mere half a year earlier, I was physically, and probably mentally the strongest I have ever been. I bought a complete workout gym that I put in the studio as well as a fancy incline treadmill.
Let’s talk about that treadmill. Missy (my wife and talented filmmaking partner) wanted one of these things. We were drinking one night and looking up exercise equipment online and I knee-jerk purchased one against my better judgement. Cool, but way too expensive. Long story short, I ended up having an accident in the studio with this thing. It tipped over and I tried to catch it. Let’s just say my grip and forearm muscles were stronger than my bicep tendon. I heard a pop and sure enough, tore my bicep! Exercising ceased immediately. Surgery within 3 weeks of the tear. Then recovery began.
Why is that important to this story? Shortly after the surgery is when I started to have weird symptoms. One day, I got on the treadmill and just did a light jog. I found that I couldn’t really catch my breath. Strange. I actually thought it was something in the air at the studio. Maybe the air was a little “thick” that day? But in the coming weeks I had more and more symptoms, persistent cough, strange pain in my leg, and some vision problems. Wait, did I mention I had cancer before? Yes, breast cancer. I know, very rare. I went through surgery, chemo and radiation 4 years ago.
Then, it was gone. Out of sight. Out of mind. But when I started getting these symptoms last year, there was a voice in my head quietly whispering the C word over and over again. And of course, it was. The first thing they found was the tumors in the lungs. I had breast cancer 4 years ago and it came back. It metastasized.
“Too many to count.” The doctor said with a sad, straight-face look that I read as “You’re fucked kid.”
“Great! What next doc?!”
Although I know these cells were in my body all along, I can’t help but think that the bicep tear, surgery and abrupt quitting of exercise contributed to the cells “awakening”. My “bro-science” theory might hold some weight. One of my doctors said that surgery and things like that are in fact a trauma to your body and trauma can have effects on more than just the muscle, tendon or bones that are directly involved. There are many things we don’t know about the body. The fact that I busted my arm could’ve had a mental side effect as well. I use both of my arms all the time when I am shooting. I have to wield around a heavy camera rig on my shoulder on a regular basis. This is how I support my family. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do that and would most likely lose money over it probably raised my stress level considerably. Add in the fact that I abruptly quit working out. All of this can change the behavior of hormones in your body. Stress can even make your immune system go out of whack.
But I can write for days on all of this, and I will, but let’s get back to the title of this post again.
How to run a production company while living (or dying) of stage 4 cancer.
All I know is that I have been behind on projects for the past 6 months. It pains me to tell clients “I’m sorry, we just fell a little behind.” And I have said that over and over again. I not only want to do good work, I want to do great work. And not only that, I want my clients to have the best customer service possible. Excellent work, done on time. I’ve created unique systems within my company to do just that. But cancer is a bitch. It’s time to rework a few things.
Here is my game plan so far…
Cut as many expenses as possible. Be as lean as we can be.
This will be hard to do, but I have to do it. For instance, one of the things that I love having is the studio/office space. But we don’t really shoot a lot in the studio, most of our work is on-location.
Try alternative medicine and/or integrative medicine approaches.
More on this later, but my wife Missy has made it her second job to research all kinds of treatments for cancer. Natural and medicinal. We have been seeing naturopathic doctors as well as our oncologists and determined that we are going to try other methods of treatments as well. So far, the medicine-only route is not working. We will be traveling and seeking out alternative therapies in conjunction with medicinal therapies in an attempt to beat this thing. Because if I am not healthy, my business can’t be healthy.
Only take on higher level jobs with decent budgets for great creative work.
I need to take on less jobs per month. The multitasking needed with multiple projects going on can be a heavy stressor. So the plan is to do less in terms of quantity, but be able to give all of our creative energy and resources to one project at a time. I want to make world class stuff. It’s hard to do that with tiny budgets.
Make documentary content about this process.
I love creating. If I can’t create, I’ll just load the bullet now. But this is about more than that. It is a way to potentially raise the money needed to actually sustain my life through this journey and at the same time help others going through a similar thing. We will document the process in every way we can. From this day on, expect way more personal videos, blog posts, pictures and podcasts. Eventually, all of this material will turn into a feature length documentary. I initially made a plan of doing this 4 years ago with “Breast Cancer Boy”, but at that time I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I didn’t want to be consumed by cancer 24/7, especially after I was “better” and my brother Brandon was in the thick of it. But this time is different. It is so much more real now.
Ask for help.
This is the big one. I don’t like asking for help, but I am going to need it. My wife and kids are going to need it. There is only so much parents and immediate family can do. I truly believe I can beat this thing but it will cost real money unfortunately. But I feel I can work for it. I feel that we have some skills that actually come in handy for this sort of thing. I will create content for it. And if and when I end up beating it, my main mission in life will be to repay people in any way I can.
Thanks for reading this far! That is a feat in and of itself! I know you have limited time and I value every second of it.
I have a strong team behind me, especially my wife Missy. She has been literally keeping me alive and steering me in the right direction. She is way more knowledgable than me with all this cancer stuff and will be a key role in all of this moving forward, including the documentary work we are doing. I would not be able to do this without her.
Lastly, I love you. I mean it. The good thing about going through this is that you look at people differently. I am convinced that the majority of humanity is good, regardless of what the news tell you.
Ok, get on with your day. You’ll hear from us soon.
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