In a guest column for Deadline, Fogelman shares how two experiences from his own life — his mother's cancer diagnosis when he was 31 and meeting his wife a year after his mom died — inspired his new movie, "Life Itself."
Fogelman writes of sitting in a Philadelphia doctor's exam room "next to my blonde, youthful looking, sixty year old mother." It's the day the pair learn a "grapefruit sized tumor" in his mother's abdomen is cancerous.
He recalls his mother waiting with an Oprah's Book Club selection in her lap. A "charming" doctor walks in, chats with her about the book, and then delivers the awful news: The tumor is inoperable.
The rest of the day is a whirlwind of panic and emotion, with Fogelman frantically trying to FedEx his mom's health records to another specialist — but running into obstacles at every turn.
Through it all, he's aware of the storytelling power of each moment: "It occurs to me, even as it is happening, that this would make a great scene in a movie one day."
Fogelman's story becomes happier about a year after his mom dies, when he meets another blond woman who shares his mom's fondness for books and chocolate. The two fall in love and marry.
The story of these two women is one Fogelman was compelled to write about because he wanted to create something for "every person who has experienced love and loss."
Seeing such power and beauty "in the human experience" isn't easy to do, he wrote, and it certainly isn't "considered 'cool' or 'artistic.'"
"Ugliness envelops us right now," he lamented. "The internet is filled with trolls and skeptics, haters and hackers."
"But I choose to see connections in our existences," he wrote. "I choose to see the romance, and the beauty that is often born from tragedy."