The truth in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

Anya Harp (left), who has leukemia, says when Hazel (Shailene Woodley, below left) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) visit the Anne Frank house in “The Fault in Our Stars, “I think I may have been the only one who cried when I watched Hazel walk up a flight of stairs.”

Anya Harp

Anya Harp (left), who has leukemia, says when Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) visit the Anne Frank house in “The Fault in Our Stars, “I think I may have been the only one who cried when I watched Hazel walk up a flight of stairs.”

My name is Anya Harp. I am 13 years old. I live in Cambridge with my mother, father, sister Luna and dog, Taxi. Like millions of other readers I loved “The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green’s novel about two teenagers with cancer — Hazel and Gus — who fall in love. I read it for the first time last summer. When I went to see the movie adaption of Green’s book, I lined up to get into the packed theater. I saw it with a large group of my friends who had also read the book. I was happy that I saw it with my friends. I liked watching the understanding the movie brought to the audience.

Unlike many of the other viewers, I am in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That means I noticed details in the movie that other people didn’t.


I have a device embedded under the skin in my chest called a port-a-cath (port for short). Every week, a nurse at the Jimmy Fund Clinic sticks a needle into the port so I can get my chemotherapy into the veins near my heart, which are thicker and strong enough to handle the harsh medicines. “The Fault in Our Stars” got this detail right. The port on Gus’s chest looked just like mine.

I enjoyed that Hazel and Gus found humor, too, in their sickness. They speak of “cancer perks,’’ which I am quite familiar with. Cancer is awful. I lost all my hair, I’m not strong enough to walk farther than the length of my house, I have to go to clinic all the time, I’m constantly nauseated, and can’t just be normal. But kids including myself get many gifts to support them. Stuffed animals, signed basketballs, baseball tickets, pictures with celebrities. . . . It’s something I am grateful for.

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There is another type of perk that comes with cancer as well. Sympathy can be considered a cancer perk. Sometimes sympathy bothers me but I find ways to have fun with it. I share jokes with my parents about if they ever happened to run a red light, I could just pull off my hat to expose my bald head to the police officer and we’d be off the hook. I think even though the plot of the movie is very deep and can be upsetting, the optimistic sides of the characters’ personalities really shine through. Humor helps cancer patients get through treatment.


Ansel Elgort, right, and Shailene Woodley in "The Fault In Our Stars."

In the theater there was a lot of crying. Everyone cried at the “appropriate times” when the story turns sad. But I think I may have been the only one who cried when I watched Hazel walk up a flight of stairs. During their visit to Amsterdam, Hazel and Gus visit the Anne Frank House, which has no elevator. Hazel is determined to be able to do what any kid should be able to: climb stairs. As I watched her struggle, I cried. I knew how she felt. Even the focus of the camera struck me. Hazel felt lightheaded, dizzy, and out of breath. The blurring of the camera was just so correct.

After I was told I had cancer, I feared no one would ever understand me. No one could relate to me. I don’t see bald kids on TV. “The Fault in Our Stars” was the first movie I could relate to since I was diagnosed. It is an amazing movie that lets everyday people get a better understanding of what we cancer kids go through.

Anya Harp will start eighth grade in September.
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