Andrea Navedo needs an Emmy. Jaime Camil needs an Emmy. This will be my official pitch to the Television Academy. “Chapter Seventy-Eight” of Jane the Virgin took a very serious topic and just ran with it on every single level. Xiomara’s breast cancer diagnosis takes the show in the most serious direction it’s ever been, and yet, still finds key moments of hilarity in and out of the central topic of discussion. Breast cancer is something that, unfortunately, everyone knows too well. There is not one person who doesn’t know someone, or hasn’t gone through themselves, breast cancer. The waves of emotions, the discussions, the arguments and the necessary levity, from diagnosis to treatment and beyond, all encompass the surreal reality of what cancer does, not just to the person diagnosed, but to a family. The Villanueva-De La Vega-Solano family stepped up to this story’s content in a major way. The best part is that this story is just getting started.
Xiomara’s diagnosis with Stage 3 breast cancer puts everyone on edge, and heightens the way they all typically handle crisis. Alba takes an approach that is actually very typical of the older generation. This isn’t a critique, just a hallmark of what abuelos and abuelas know to do. When things get tough, they don’t sit down and talk about it. They pray relentlessly, and then spring into action, and anyone who doesn’t follow suit needs to just get out of the way. Unfortunately, Alba sees Rogelio in constant discussions about his show, and assumes her son-in-law is putting his career ahead of her daughter. What she doesn’t know is that Rogelio has been busy pushing back production, and doesn’t want Xo to know because she would try to stop him. He knew Alba would blab to Xo, which explains the secrecy. #Chismosa is right! (I will temporarily pause here to vehemently applaud the writers for introducing this word to network television. It is a brilliant highlight of Latino culture.) What Alba really needed was to get out some of her anger and fear. It doesn’t matter how old your child gets, you will always want to protect them.
Jane researches the way only Jane can, and pretty much takes over her mother’s decision-making. Here’s the problem. This is Xiomara’s health and body, not Jane’s. While Jane has usually been the more logical adult in this mother-daughter relationship, the day-to-day ramifications of a double mastectomy do not affect her person. Xiomara will have to live with whatever decision she makes, and the only one who should be involved in some of the discussion is Rogelio. This isn’t because Rogelio has any say in what Xiomara decides, but because he is her partner. Not to mention, as Xiomara so rightly puts to Jane, “You and I have different relationships with our bodies.” So much of how Xiomara defines herself is wrapped up in her body. Her confidence, her strength, even the life lessons she taught Jane. With the cancer only in one breast, choosing a preventative surgery might not be the best thing for Xiomara.
The episode was so heavy, it was such a relief to have a B-storyline on the exact opposite spectrum. JR shuts down Petra’s romantic intentions, but the use of her real name confuses and disturbs Rafael, who thinks Petra is in love with the woman he is dating. It gets real awkward, really fast! When Petra tells Jane and Rafael the truth, it’s the first time Jane (our Jane, not JR) smiles in days, so it was worth it. Rafael is less enthused, but only because Petra prattles on about JR–for 45 minutes straight. Rafael would like to see Petra happy, but she doesn’t do wooing. Petra is the master of over-the-top gestures, hence why Rafael has two little girls. What finally endears Petra to JR is her willingness to go a little crazy for her. Clearly this is the woman for Petra.
While Rafael does not have the same connection to Xo that the rest of the family does, he is a cancer survivor. Rafael was the perfect person for Xiomara to talk to. As a cancer survivor, he can relate to every thought she’s having. His only advice to Xo is to make room for her own feelings. This decision is hers, and if she requires an opinion, she’ll ask for it. Rafael uses this same logic to pull Jane back from inserting herself where she doesn’t belong. Instead of doing it in a pushy way, Rafael really lets Jane know that her feelings are valid, but they are her own, not her mother’s. The same holds true for Mateo. Little as he is, he has valid fears about losing his abuela. In that moment, it doesn’t matter that Rafael doesn’t believe in God. For his son, for Xiomara, and maybe even for his past, cancer-stricken self, Rafael gets on his knees and prays by his son.
In the end, Xiomara does need a sounding board, her husband. He is her partner now, and this is something that will affect him, physically and emotionally. The beautiful thing about their conversation was that it was free from fear of what the other would think. Xo and Ro were as honest and loving as they’ve ever been, which leads to Xiomara deciding on a single mastectomy.
Let’s hear some stories. Who thinks Xiomara made the right decision? Is there a right way to handle cancer diagnosis?
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