In The Education of Dee Dee Ricks, a documentary airing tonight on HBO, Dee Dee Ricks is a wealthy, materialistic socialite who has everything--including breast cancer. She is lucky to have the money and health insurance to provide herself with her needed health care. But the piling medical bills are a sobering life changer for Dee Dee, as she becomes empathetic to women with breast cancer who aren’t as lucky as she is. Having cancer opens Dee Dee up to the issues of women who are without health insurance to afford breast cancer treatment, and she decides to become an advocate for them. It's fascinating to watch Dee Dee transform from superficial to altruistic.
She goes to Harlem to find the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center, where they treat women with breast cancer without insurance. There she is inspired by Dr. Harold Freeman, and decides that she will try to help raise the millions needed to keep his operation afloat. Dee Dee meets a strong woman also with breast cancer named Cynthia. Cynthia was diagnosed too late because she was without health insurance. The two women bond over their cancer and immediately form a friendship and sisterhood. Dee Dee is further inspired to help Cynthia and women like her, as she continues her advocacy work.
This is a very intimate and heart-wrenching documentary, for sure. The viewer quickly becomes very familiar with Dee Dee’s insecurities, personal life, and every gritty detail of her cancer treatment journey. You also get a look into Cynthia’s experiences with breast cancer treatment as well as her hopes and dreams for the future. I found Cynthia's story more compelling, and I wish that the focus of the film had been more on her. Cynthia's story emphasized all of the problems in the health care system that Dee Dee was trying to raise awareness and money for. The film as a whole is a strong reminder that breast cancer doesn’t care who you are, as well as a reminder that health care is way too expensive.
The Education of Dee Dee Ricks airs tonight at 8:30pm on HBO.