A Gal's Guide to Making a Movie, Part 17: The Cancer


A Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie is a written series by Erin Bagwell the director of Dream, Girl and the founder of Feminist Wednesday. To view the whole series click here.

Part 17: The Cancer

In the midst of re-starting the film, and editing like crazy, Komal and I realized that she needed to move to New York. Events, meetings, promotional opportunities, and the like all happened in the city and if she couldn’t get on a plane she would miss them. After a long application process, she got her Visa for KoMedia and moved five blocks away from me in Park Slope.

We had always talked about her moving, and finally having her here felt like a huge relief. However, it felt like the minute Komal got here something felt off with her. She had really low energy, and preferred to work from home than come into our office. At first I just thought she was nesting, or getting use to the energy of the city but after a while it became clear something else was going on. She went back to Ottawa for a weekend to spend time with her boyfriend Mitch, and while she was there she went to the doctor to get some blood work done.

She called me out of the blue, like she usually does about a dozen times of the day to talk. She was uncharacteristically upbeat and happy, like she was trying to put on a good face. She had just heard back from the doctor. I waited for her to tell me what was going on.

“I have cancer.” She said.

“Cancer?” I said.


I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I was in shock. I was silent. I don’t remember what we talked about next. After the call I broke down sobbing and called Sal. I couldn’t believe it.

I remember walking around the financial district that afternoon feeling like I was underwater. It felt surreal and nauseating. I couldn’t believe it.

I think it took us a long time to start to understand and process this news as a team. Both Diana and Kylie were affected differently, and I struggled as a leader to find the right things to say to them.

Komal came back to the city and we took her schedule day by day. Some days she felt great and was fine, other days she was only up to working for a few hours. I did my best to be both supportive and give her the space she needed, but I think the hardest part was that this diagnosis was something I couldn’t ever fully understand and feel with her. As connected as we were this disconnected us, and I could only support and see what she showed me.

The unfortunate thing about life is that regardless of where we were at emotionally it keeps moving forward, and forward we did go. A month after her diagnosis Komal and I were chosen to be part of Oprah’s SuperSoul100, a list hand selected by Oprah of 100 leaders who were making social change in their industries.

Our profile around the film continued to blossom, pushing us to show up and work harder than we ever have before, even if we weren’t ready for it.

Next time on a Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie. Part 18: Oprah. Komal and Erin meet the one and only Oprah Winfrey.