Professor’s documentary chronicles fight with cancer
John Kaplan, a UF professor, made a documentary about himself and his battle with cancer. The film, “Not As I Pictured,” will air on PBS WUFT-TV on Thursday at 8 p.m. Special To the Alligator

John Kaplan likened the pain to what it must feel like to get shot.

He said the 20 seconds it took to conduct his bone marrow biopsy felt like an eternity, and he’s got the pictures to prove it.

Kaplan, a UF photojournalism professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, documented his journey through non-Hodgkins lymphoma in his uplifting documentary, “Not As I Pictured,” which will air on local television stations Thursday and Saturday.

It will premiere locally Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. on WUFT-TV, Gainesville’s PBS station.

“It was a simple way to cope with my fear,” said Kaplan, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2008. “I believed if I were able to go into remission, the work I was doing could really help other people too.”

Though he admits chemotherapy made his schedule challenging and left him fatigued, he never missed a class.

“You want to be able to help people in the way you did before your diagnosis,” he said. “It was good for my psyche.” 

Before he knew he would even make it to remission, Kaplan started stringing photographs and video together to mold his 54-minute documentary.

The film consists almost entirely of self-taken shots. The theme song, however, stems locally.

Maria Carter, a UF graduate who took Kaplan’s design class, was asked by the professor to write a song for the documentary.

Carter said it was difficult to write lyrics about cancer without having been there herself.

But the lyrics of her song, “Not As I Pictured,” would hit close to home last March when she was diagnosed with gynecologic cancer.

“Now when I sing the song, I realized I knew more than I thought I did. It’s still really accurate,” Carter said.

Carter, who is currently in remission, said Kaplan’s documentary maintains hope, a conscious effort he made from the start.

“Who wants to watch a poor sick guy for an hour?” Kaplan asked. “When I made the movie, I made sure to put in a lot of upbeat scenes.

At the end, people tell us they feel better after watching it.”

Kaplan said his 7-year-old daughter, Carina, and 5-year-old son, Max, are too young to watch his documentary, but they aren’t clueless as to what their father’s been up to. 

“They knew that daddy had boo-boos,” Kaplan said. “Now they know that daddy made a movie about his boo-boos.”

Not just any movie, though — a movie that has won more than 20 awards and nominations.

He has also established a goal of giving away 10,000 copies to those affected by cancer. Each copy comes with an American Society of Clinical Oncology cancer coping guide.

Currently, Kaplan has worked toward 15 percent of his goal before the national public relations campaign set to launch in April.