Since August I've been tailing Andrew Shapter, a former fashion photographer turned documentary filmmaker, through his
aggressive treatment of chemotherapy and radiation aimed at sucker punching cancer. In the midst of it, he's been working to get his magical feature film debut The Teller and the Truth out to the world.
My resulting article is the cover story of the current Austin Chronicle. It's a twofer as my photos run with the story, including this cover image.
Here's how the story begins:
The air outside Texas Oncology in South Austin smells of burnt electricity. The scent lingers as Andrew Shapter is summoned to radiation. White confetti covers the floor outside the room Shapter visits five days a week. It signals that someone – not Shapter – has completed treatment. Two emergency medical technicians steer a man reclined on a stretcher near a sign that reads CAUTION. VERY HIGH RADIATION AREA. Shapter greets the man, and they compare radiation treatments. The man has 35 scheduled, Shapter 33. "You can have my extras," the man says with a smile. Inside, Shapter strips his shirt off, dons a white mask molded precisely for his face, opens his laptop to a playlist he's put together for just this moment, and braces himself for the X-ray beam that will burn into his neck. Louis Armstrong sings, "What a Wonderful World."
Andrew Shapter, 47, has been many things in this life: a high school class clown who concocted homemade fart devices, an actor, a political junkie toiling in Washington, D.C., a successful fashion photographer, a documentary filmmaker, a husband, a father. Today he focuses on three challenges: Ford, a doe-eyed infant son crawling across the floor and urging his dad to play; a feature film, The Teller & the Truth, five years in the making; and squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer that claims about 2,500 lives each year. "I had a choice of either going for the fierce fight or the long road," Shapter says. "With my son in mind, I decided I was going to take it hard and fast." The 20-minute radiation treatments are capped by once-a-week, six-hour chemotherapy sessions. On weekends, he crashes. Hard.
Read the rest here.