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The life-confirming documentary about Dee Dee Ricks and her emotional rebirth as a cancer survivor will debut on October 27, exclusively on HBO in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The 39-year-old mother-of-two was living her dream as a self-made millionaire on New York City’s Upper East Side when she was diagnosed with aggressive stage II breast cancer.
Insured and affluent, she could afford the best treatment money could buy, but was shocked to realize how difficult it is for uninsured women in the same situation, and determined to do something about it. So there she was; a successful woman who finally made her full potential in the face of breast cancer.
The honest story of The Education Of Dee Dee Ricks tracks the transformation of Dee Dee from successful businesswoman to determined advocate for poor breast-cancer patients, even as she faces her own battle with the disease.
According to HBO’s press release, the story begins in 2008, when this self-described “vain” woman and single parent was diagnosed with aggressive stage II breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She decided to document her experience for her children, in case anything happened to her.
During her successful recovery, Ricks receives her first medical bills. Although able to afford the payments, she is disturbed by the realization that many women are bankrupted by the expense.
Ricks subsequently meets with Dr. Harold P. Freeman, founder and president of Harlem’s Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care, believed to be the only cancer center in the nation to provide or ensure access to timely cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment to all patients, irrespective of their ability to pay, and she pledges to raise $2.5 million for the clinic.
At the clinic, Ricks bonds with Cynthia Dodson, an uninsured African-American breast cancer patient whose resilience and optimism are an inspiration. According to the American Cancer Society, African-American women are less likely to develop breast cancer, but 37 percent more likely to die, from the disease than their white counterparts.
The two become as close as sisters, supporting each other through treatment. As Ricks celebrates her last chemotherapy session, she learns that Dodson has spots on her liver and resolves to make sure her friend receives the best care possible, while stepping up her support for the Center.
Unfortunately, because Dodson’s diagnosis and treatment came late due to her financial status, her future is in doubt. Reflecting on her new priorities in life, Dee Dee concludes, “Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me.” The Education Of Dee Dee Ricks showed at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and will screen at the Paley Center’s DocFest later this month.
The filmmakers have also joined a major National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign. Perri Peltz, the documentary’s director, is a former news correspondent and longtime public health advocate who reported on health-related issues for NBC and CNN and has worked for the Robin Hood Foundation supporting organizations that fight poverty.
Image Courtesy of http://www.theeducationofdeedeericks.com/