I’m not sure if anyone who reads this remembers the show Home Improvement, but I recently found the episode The Longest Day on Youtube. It deals with Randy, the middle son, who may have thyroid cancer. Now that my surgery is over, I decided to watch it.
First of all, I haven’t seen this episode since 1996, when it first aired. I remember very clearly that my mom thought that the episode was overly dramatic, with the parents crying about their worst nightmares and Randy crying, “I don’t want to die Dad.” Her reasoning was that thyroid cancer is a very treatable kind of cancer (which it is) and that the show was becoming too melodramatic (which it was).
Her criticisms aside, the episode was, in a way, traumatic. In 1996, it was a rare 12 year old girl indeed who was not in love with Johnathon Taylor Thomas, the actor who played Randy in Home Improvement. I can still remember seeing a small group of girls in the gym during recess, sitting on the sidelines, crying because Randy might die. (So glad middle school days are over!)
Anyway, I decided, now that my thyroid surgery is four weeks removed (!) and I’m waiting to see if I need the radioactive iodine treatment, I wanted to watch the epiosode again. Here’s what I thought.
1 First of all, Randy’s thyroid cancer, or lack thereof, is determined by a blood test. This is inaccurate. A blood test can determine if a person has hypothyroidism, but not thyroid cancer. Only a biopsy, or an examination of the thyroid nodule itself, can determine that.
2 I think the reason they left out that information is because a major part of the plot is Tim and Jill lying to Randy about the possibility that he might have cancer. A blood test can be fairly innocuous, but a biopsy usually conjures up images of cancer. If Randy had a biopsy, he would have known that he might have cancer.
3 In the episode, Randy goes immediately from his gp to an endocrinologist. That made me laugh. I had to wait two months to get an appointment with my endocrinologist, and then I waited another 20 days before I had my biopsy. It would have been awesome if I could have done all of that on the same day.
4 Mom felt that they were too overdramatic about the possibility of thyroid cancer. However, I have two thoughts about that. First of all, even if cancer is easily treatable (such as papillary thyroid carcinoma) it is still a traumatic experience. When I found out my biopsy found abnormal cells and I needed surgery, my life passed before my eyes. (Ok, not literally, but it was scary.) Second of all, from what I understand, men have a higher risk of having a less common, more agressive variety of thyroid cancer, so Randy was right to be afraid.
5 Tim and Jill not telling Randy about the possibility of cancer was stupid, because he found out about it on the school computer. This episode was made in 1996, when the internet was just emerging. Just saying.
6 I do like the scene when Randy begins to cry. “Why does this kind of stuff always happen to me?” I hear ya Randy.
7 I also love Randy’s response when Tim tries to comfort him, by telling Randy that bad things happen to Tim all the time. “Yeah, but you cause it!”
8 That being said, the scene with Jill talking about the bubble over her family was quite stupid.
9 That being said, I love her exchange with Wilson.
“Do you know that Tim has survived over 200 accidents?”
“Really? I would have thought that number to be much higher.”