Twelve remarkable stories from people who have found a way to celebrate life and make the most of the time they have left.
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This programme contains some strong language from the start.
I've got a mirror opposite my bed,
and I look in the mirror and say, "Eff off, cancer."
When I look in the mirror, I don't see the same person.
I laugh all the time.
I've had, erm, a long life.
Erm, I'm ready to die.
Do you ever wonder what YOU'D do if you were given a terminal diagnosis
and told you may only have months to live?
Being told you've got a terminal illness
hasn't got to be a death sentence.
It can actually be a live sentence.
I don't ever like to say that I'm dying.
I'm NOT dying. I'm living.
I set out to find people who knew death was round the corner,
but had chosen to make the most of the time they had left.
My life isn't about motor neurone disease.
-What's it about?
-It's about going out and having fun.
For the 12 people in this film,
their impending death came as a complete surprise.
-I've always lived my life expecting things to go wrong,
and they usually do, so...it didn't really bother me.
I wanted to find out what they'd discovered about themselves
and about life.
I think cancer has taught me a lot about what matters in life
and it isn't about having a long life, it's about having a good life.
This is not a film about death and dying.
My death is an adventure.
I've never done this before.
In some ways, are you happier than you've ever been?
Yes. And every day that goes by, I'm happier.
I've stolen another day.
This is a film about living.
I used to worry all the time what other people thought of me.
And now I really don't give a fuck!
My name is Fi, and I was 30 years old when I was told
that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Before I got diagnosed, I was really busy, I was working,
so I was constantly on the go and I never, ever stopped.
By the age of 25 I had a PhD, I just kind of was really ambitious,
really, really driven.
Ewan and I had been married a couple of years
and we were looking to have children
and the plan was that I would be working and he would take time off.
We just kind of felt we had it all sorted.
Do you look back on your former self and think, "urgh"?
Yeah, I look back on who I was before all the time and just think,
you know, it was crazy how I was just so busy,
always worrying what people thought,
always wanting to be the best at everything
and now realising that none of that actually matters.
Death was now sitting on my shoulder and it wasn't...
it wasn't in the distant future,
it wasn't something I could ignore any more, so, for me,
I always view it that I've got just six months left.
This week I had an update meeting with the surgeons
about what my operation's going to involve.
What they're going to do is an incision from my breastbone,
all the way down.
And then they're going to complete a full hysterectomy,
which involves removing...
We knew early on that we wouldn't be able to have children,
and it did upset me at the start but, as it went on, there was almost
a comfort in knowing that that was definitely out of window.
So after I got diagnosed, we got a rescue dog.
When we got him, they said no-one else wanted him
because he was falling to bits, and that's what made me want him,
so he just sits with me after chemotherapy
and he's just there and is a comfort.
Chemotherapy was utterly brutal.
It's like being tortured.
And I remember saying to my husband, you know,
"I now understand why people give up."
But Ewan was so stricken with grief
and it was at that stage that I realised that I had a choice.
I could either give in to this and just be miserable
or I could be positive.
'I hate people getting upset around me.
'I think that's just... they're anticipating my death
'rather than enjoying my life.
'And I do tell people to piss off if they're crying in front of me!
So, is Ewan allowed to get upset?
Yeah, Ewan can get upset.
I hate to ask you this because this feels like a stupid question,
-but would you have liked to live longer?
Sorry, I'm now thinking.
I think, if my choice had been to live longer and not have cancer
and not have the insight that I've got, I wouldn't take it.
I think I would rather have my cancer diagnosis
and have changed my life the way I have.
That's a remarkable answer.
-Yeah, I think...
-Does it surprise you?
No, I think it's something I think about quite a lot,
that I was, kind of, wasting life before.
And I would never have appreciated life if it hadn't been for cancer.
So cancer's definitely been a gift.
And if my exchange for that is time,
then, I'm willing to accept that gift.
If you've got a limited amount of time,
-then what do you want to spend it doing?
Having a good time. Having fun.
Admiring my wonderful breasts...
that are made out of my tummy.
I'm 50, and when I take my bra off, they don't move.
That's quite nice, isn't it?
My name's Lisa.
I was 48 when I was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
And I was given 12 to 18 months to live.
I'd been given the all-clear and we had a fantastic carefree Christmas.
And I was in the bath.
And I found a lump in my neck. And I knew. I just knew.
I thought, "My Lord, it's back."
I remember going in to see my breast surgeon.
And I said, "OK, all I need is three years
"to get my girls into university."
And she just shook her head and said, "No."
So, when we came back from the hospital, they were waiting.
And Georgie said, "How bad is it?"
And I said, "It's as bad as it can get, love."
I said, "It's terminal."
' "..probably, 18 months, 2 years, max.
' "Be lucky to see you out of A-levels." '
I like the little stars, don't you?
' "But your future's yours.
' "This disease will probably take your mother.'
"It's up to you if you let it take your future.
"So this is not an excuse to go off the rails,
"it is not an excuse to fail at school."
But if it all works out according to your plan,
you're going to come out really well, because you're going to get
three A-levels and two ASs, so that's, you know.
' "The way to fight this is to carry on
' "without this thing ruining your life." '
-Do you fear for their future without you there?
Because that's a bit futile, isn't it?
I can't control that.
All I can do is be here now, doing the best I can.
Like every mum.
I'm really pleased with it because that came up. See that Lobelia?
'Is there any way in which you can see positives in this diagnosis?
'I've been given a heads-up.
'I can live the life I want to live
'and do the things I want to do
'and put my house in order.'
I had very, very, very good life insurance.
'I've been able to retire.'
It allows you to DO things instead of talking about them.
Is there an intensity that comes with it, Lisa?
Oh, yes, yeah.
It is in a different way now. It's a gentler intensity.
It's like, you know, this sounds...
..I don't know... but the colours ARE brighter.
'The trees ARE greener.
'I notice the colour of my girls' hair.
'Because you notice things.'
I try to drink my husband's face in.
I try to remember every feature.
Um, and his hands. He's got the most beautiful hands.
And I look at them more these days.
'Now, when you are lying in bed for months on end
'and you cease to look like a human being...
'..and your husband tells you...'
you still look like the girl he fell in love with...
You know, that takes a special man.
'I'm not a 50-year-old woman with cancer who looks like she's been
'in a shark attack when she takes her clothes off.
'He has treasured me.'
If I allow myself to think...
..my girls getting married without me there...
..my parents at Christmas-time.
..waking up every day on his own.
Or never being able to watch Poldark again.
If I allow myself to do that, this happens.
That's not good.
Am I doing myself...any good...
doing this right now?
No, I'm not.
Have you thought of having a big party before you go or not?
-Oh, we are having that.
-Oh! Silly me!
Next ye... Of course!
Next year we're having a joint 50th.
And if that's my last hurrah, it may not be,
but if it is, that'll be lovely.
And also, if I make it to August '18,
that'll be our 20th wedding anniversary,
and we are retaking our vows in the Saxon church here.
'And it's already in the vicar's diary.'
I was a typical man.
I went to work, I had a family.
My job was pretty full-on
and it was 11-hour days and some weekend work.
Hi, my name's Kevin. I was 49 years old
when I was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer.
'I have three children. My eldest children live with their mum.
'My daughter, Hayley, she's 18, Ben is 16,
'and Ollie's 11, and he's just started high school.'
Before I told them, I didn't really know what to say or how to say it.
And I went on to one of the charities' websites
and it talked about how you tell your children.
They knew that there was some bad news coming.
And they thought I was going to tell them Grandad was going to die,
and they were quite shocked when I said it was me
that actually had prostate cancer and that I was going to die.
Actually, that's not quite true.
I said I had prostate cancer and it wasn't curable.
And we cried a bit. You know, lots of big hugs.
Bit like the Teletubbies, really.
Then I went to the park with the three kids and played football,
just to prove that even though I had this, sort of, rubbish disease,
it didn't mean we had to stop doing things we always did.
'When I was first diagnosed, I was sad about everything all the time.'
Wake up at one in the morning and just cry for three hours.
And I remember being very conscious that I mustn't wake my wife up
because I didn't want to share the burden with her,
so I would just lie there and sob quietly to myself.
I came home from the first dose of chemotherapy
and I felt like I had to behave a certain way.
And I shuffled out of the car, up the steps into my front room,
sat in the armchair, a bit like a really, really old person.
The next morning I woke up and I thought, this is a defining moment.
Now is the time I either lie in bed or get up and do something.
I got up and I said, "I'm going to go for a run."
My wife looked at me and said,
"No, you can't go for a run, you've just had chemotherapy."
I said, "Why can't I?"
And I ran three miles.
And I was very slow and I felt awful.
But, mentally, I felt absolutely elated,
cos I felt I could still do something.
Running is my salvation, really.
How important is hope?
I don't really have any hope.
That's not me. I deal in factual things and probability.
There is no miracle cure.
So the probable situation for me is that there will be something that
might give me another few months but it's never going to cure me
and it's never going to give me a whole more load of years.
-Cinq, quatre, trois, deux, un!
'The one thing which I wanted to do since my diagnosis
'is a race called the Marathon des Sables.
'It is a marathon on a Sunday, a marathon on a Monday,
'a marathon on Tuesday, a double marathon on Wednesday.
'Thursday you get off,
'a marathon on Friday and a half marathon on Saturday.
'You do all of that in the Sahara, over sand dunes,
'carrying 24lbs on your back.
'I never really thought I would make it,'
so getting to the start was actually my bucket list thing.
It wasn't about finishing it.
'Having any terminal illness has to be lonely at times.
'And it is.
'Running is the one thing where I can escape my reality.
'It's like a miracle cure.
'I feel like Captain Ahab at the wheel, with Moby-Dick'
saying, "Come on, bring it on, how strong do you want to throw at me
"because I'm still going to keep on going, you're not going to beat me."
And that...I think that helps me get through cancer.
'And in the end, yeah, maybe Moby-Dick's going to get me,
'but along the way I'm going to give it a damn good fight.'
I've had the job that I always wanted to have.
I have a husband and I'm incredibly happy.
'I have four beautiful children.'
And I just want to see them through childhood,
so I'm going to fight like mad.
'My name's Louise'
and I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer when I was 44.
'It's been 18 months since my stage 4 diagnosis.'
And I do spend a very, very long time
researching alternative treatments.
I would like to think that they are going to extend my life
and they are extending the quality of my life.
And I know that sometimes people probably think,
"Oh, she's completely deluded, poor woman."
But I've just got to hope that...
I will defy the odds.
I drink lots of vegetable juices.
I went vegan. I've got an infrared sauna upstairs.
Suitcases of supplements. Curcumin, that's turmeric.
Milk thistle is really good for the liver.
I don't eat any sugar. I don't have any alcohol.
In fact, I'm much more healthy than I've probably ever been.
'I'll tell you a conversation I had with Ned, he's the youngest,'
and I wanted to know if he had thought about me dying.
I've never said to him directly, erm...
"Mummy's probably going to die."
So, then I said, "Have you ever thought about me dying?"
And he looked out the window and he looked around,
like he was embarrassed, and then I knew that he had.
And I said, "It's OK if you have."
And he said, "Yes." He goes, "Yes, I have."
' "And what does that make you feel?"
'I said, "I'm going to try not to, I'm trying really hard not to,
' "but what if I do?" '
He went, "Well...
"You know, I think I might, I might cry, you know, a lot,
"for maybe an hour."
So then I went, "An hour?! You'd only cry for an hour?!"
And then it was just, like, it broke...
I felt so relieved that even though we'd not talked about it directly
in that way, that he was under no illusion that I might die.
And that kind of gave me comfort.
I've, sort of, planned out what I want to do before I die.
I feel really privileged that I've got the time to do that.
It's about organising the photographs for the children,
because I'm the only one who ever knows where anything is.
I'm going to knit them each a blanket.
And, of course, if you've got a project,
you can't die until your project's over.
So, four children, four blankets, and a hopeless knitter,
means I'll be working on that project for a very long time!
I get to write them little messages, so they've got a block of postcards
so that they can just, like, pick one out,
and it just says things like...
We always do a sweepstake when it's the World Cup,
and that they have to still include a couple for me.
Ned is the one who,
I just have been in terror of the idea of him without a mother.
He's 13 now.
A vulnerable time for a boy.
And so I've sent him to my sister's for a term.
-How are you?
-How are you, sweetie?
'And my sister has got her own children
'and she lives in Singapore.'
Can you sit up straight? I can't see you properly.
My ambition is that he builds a much closer relationship
with Cecilia so that maybe, if I don't make it,
that he could possibly go to school there.
It's one of those things I was afraid of.
And I feel like I've made just such a right decision
to give him that life for when I'm not here.
Do you think you've learned quite a lot about life
and about yourself because of this?
Have I? Well, I'm more brave than I thought I was.
'I feel as if, if I didn't have my family,
'I wonder if I would be so strong.
'I feel that I'm achieving the end of life'
in a way that I would respect someone for doing.
And every time I see the children happy
and our family just functioning as normally as possible...
..I'm so proud that we are managing to do this,
erm, and not be...
you know, dominated by the possible death of Mum.
'If you said to me, did I want this project, I can think of other ones
'I'd rather have than project managing my own death.'
What's a little relief is I didn't want to grow old
and be a miserable old bugger.
'Jenny, I know, didn't ever want to have to tell me
'I was so old I couldn't drive any more.'
The relief is, we haven't got that problem now.
'I'm Kevin, I'm 69 years old,'
and four months ago I learned that I had incurable cancer.
It's prostate cancer which has spread to my bones.
The prognosis might give me an additional two years.
To know how long you have helps you develop the game plan
for coping with it.
Are you going to ring her later or do you want her to ring you?
I know that Martin couldn't make the meeting
but I think he'll be pleased with the position we've got to.
Turns out that's a green day for me so that should be no problem at all.
Talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
It's not consciously project managing my own death,
but if you take a project management model
you, kind of, set targets and you assess progress.
And for somebody whose dad dropped dead at 64,
so my mother was never able to say goodbye,
it's a huge privilege to know that we've actually got some time.
It's a real opportunity to live the rest of my life
as positively as possible.
My first wife died of cancer at the age of 49,
but I only had a vague expectation
that I would die one day.
And what this gives you is clarity about that.
You read all the stuff about diet.
And I know that I could become a green-tea-drinking vegan
and that might give me a little while longer,
but the things that have got me to 69,
there's no point junking them now
in case it gave me another two months
because it's given me the 69 years I've had.
And that includes a glass of wine.
Good for you!
I'm hugely lucky I've got a supportive wife
who's on the journey with me for as long as she can be.
But there'll come a point where our destinations diverge,
cos I'm going to die and she's not.
And I see my duty as her husband
is to help her approach that new life as positively as she can.
There's a Word document of all the things
that I need to share with Jenny,
and we've been through nearly all of them.
That gives me great comfort because it means...
it means that I'm loving her to the last possible moment.
I'll have the English breakfast, please.
'Since the diagnosis four months ago,'
we've actually had some of the best times of our life.
Thank you. That was a lovely breakfast. Thanks.
The gift of life is somehow reinforced
when suddenly you're reminded it's finite.
When you know that you haven't got long,
are there things that you think,
"I'd like to sort that out before I die?"
-Do you have any areas like that?
-Yes, I do.
Yes, I do.
I...erm, I have two children.
My daughter has just given birth to our first grandchild.
And I talk to my daughter a lot more than I used to, as a result of this.
I also have a son but, sadly, I have no contact with him.
I haven't seen my son for some eight years.
Whatever I did wrong, I regret.
If I could put that right in some way before I die,
I would be delighted to.
I'm not afraid of death.
I think if I was 19, 29, 39, 49, instead of 69,
I think I might well feel differently.
I might well feel robbed of opportunity,
I might well feel that I was entitled to longer.
My job is to make my death as positive as possible,
which means smiling to the end.
And saying, "Goodbye. Thank you."
Can you tell me something, Jolene, do you feel
like you've been robbed of your life because you're so young?
I feel really hard done by, but I think it teaches you a lot.
My name is Jolene and I was 23 when I was told I had malignant melanoma
and may only have 18 months to live.
You just want to feel like a normal 20-something-year-old
doing normal things.
Hanging out with your friends, getting takeaway on a Friday night,
going to work.
Hello, Sadler's Wells press office. Jolene speaking.
I work at Sadler's Wells Theatre in the press and communications team.
People don't focus on the fact that you're ill,
they just focus on the work that you're doing
and they care if you're doing a good job.
But you were told that you might only have 18 months to live.
Why on earth, Jolene, did you go back to work?
Work is important to me.
To have something to focus on that isn't being ill
is a big distraction, and I really enjoy that.
I think it's hard to tell, as well, because they're in rehearsals,
which has only just started this week...
'I think, at my age, you just have to get on with it.'
You either carry on or you choose to admit defeat.
And I'm not ready for that yet.
One of the best things I've ever done in this process
is have my eyebrows tattooed.
It's not really anything to do with vanity.
Basically, you want to fit in,
and cancer makes you an outsider in a world full of insiders.
I never know whether to actually smile.
I like that I look well. I like that I don't look ill.
Tell me about blokes and boys and boyfriends.
Yeah, I definitely think that would be nice,
but how do you introduce yourself to someone?
Basically, "By the way, I'm dying, do you want to go out with me?"
That's not going to happen, is it?
Like, everyone goes, "Oh, yeah, it'll be fine."
It wouldn't be fine! Like, that's a stupid idea!
I've divided my life into two very clear segments in terms of me
having my treatment and me having a life outside of that.
I very much keep them separate as much as I can.
I think that's actually quite key to me staying as positive as I am
and as sane as I am.
-I thought you went to Poland with that?
-And Poland, yes.
Remember I went to Dubai - you said,
"You're never going to cope with the heat."
-Not long till OUR break away!
-When do you go?
-We go on the 12th to the 15th,
so it's, like, Saturday to Tuesday.
'I guess nicer times are when I'm in London.
'And then the other part is when I go home every three weeks
'to have chemotherapy.'
Are you quite proud of yourself, of what you've managed to do?
Yeah, I'm really smug about it, if I'm honest.
-I'm a bit like, "Hm, look at me, haven't I achieved a lot?"
In terms of, obviously, being unwell
and how I've, sort of, responded to treatment and overcome,
I guess, a lot of hurdles.
I definitely know that I'm going to keep fighting,
but I know that eventually I won't win.
But if I admit that I'm not going to win, then I'll lose sooner.
-That's quite scary, that admission, isn't it?
Because, ultimately, we all know that I'm living on borrowed time.
Like, that's pretty hard to comprehend,
but we all know it's true.
Yeah, that's a real tough one.
If I were to just admit to myself, like, I'm going to die,
and I don't know how long it's going to be,
I think I'd be worse off than I am now.
-Do you think you'd die quicker?
When I'm less well, I guess I'll end up going and living at home
with my mum. I don't really want to do that any time soon or by choice
because, to me, that's the beginning of, sort of, a downward spiral.
Is it important to you that people think that you're strong?
Yeah, it's REALLY important that people think I'm strong.
I don't want to look weak.
Because I think that's admitting defeat.
So, I'm going to stay, you know,
standing on my two feet independently for as long as I can.
So, did your prognosis change you, Annabel?
Did it make you a stronger person?
It made me a much more confident person than I had ever been before.
'My name's Annabel.
'I was 51 when I discovered that I had stage 4 cancer.'
I decided to make myself a bucket list
and my first thing was to...
leave my husband.
I met my husband at university.
We were together 28 years.
I had a good life in my marriage but I just felt trapped,
completely trapped, and I wanted to just break free.
I got some inheritance money from my family.
I moved into my own flat.
I took up art, painting, I went travelling all around the world,
I took my children to different places.
Knowing that I only had a short time to go...
I thought, I just can't live my life just carrying on being a housewife.
I wanted to spend the last two or three years
doing something different.
How did your children react?
I did ask my children before I left,
and they both actually agreed that I would be happier
if I went and did my own thing.
'I'd always wanted to learn salsa dancing.'
It was a good way to meet new people and maybe meet a new partner.
People didn't know I had a terminal illness,
they just thought I had a dodgy leg.
But it's a real shame I can't do it any more.
It's one of the things I miss.
When I left my husband,
I didn't leave him for another man or anything,
but I did need to make a new love life for myself.
And I have done that.
I've lived for four years now with bone cancer,
and I think it's helped
because I've lived such a positive life and changed so much of it.
If I hadn't had the cancer, I'd just be a dull, sort of, person,
but because of the cancer I've become a much more...
naughty older woman.
My name is Paulette.
I was 45 years old when I was diagnosed with Thymoma 3B.
Everything happened very quickly and I went to see an oncologist.
And I boldly asked him, "Well, how long do you think I have,
"if this is so serious?"
And he said, "Four months."
You could have blown me away.
I'd always been a very fit person.
I love my swimming, running, netball.
I work full-time in a secondary school.
And I really enjoyed my job.
I continued to enjoy it until my diagnosis.
I've brought two boys up.
Since I was 25, I brought them up on my own.
And it's been a challenge,
especially having one with special needs,
severe learning difficulties.
Tell me how much and how important your faith is.
God lives within me. I don't do one without the other.
I am who I am because of him.
Do you ever scold him and say,
"Haven't I had enough problems to deal with?"
-I've been mad.
-Have you? Have you shouted at God?
I've been mad. I shouted, I've screamed.
Welcome, welcome. Thank you. Good morning, church.
"How dare you?! Look how good I've been to people,
"and you turn round and do this."
With this cancer that I have, I've decided that I'm going to go away,
I'm going away in faith, but I will be in the hospital,
and I will do what I need to do and I'll be on the journey with God.
Thank you very much.
I grew up in a children's home
and, um, I stayed there up until I was five years old.
My mother was a schoolgirl mother, at 14 years old.
I remember taking a coach at five years old
with one of the ladies from the home,
who said that I was going to stay with my gran, aunt and my uncle.
I was never able to...
..acknowledge my birth mother.
But I always remember Bev, my mother,
coming to see me every time I had a child.
She would come and bring me a gift and we had pleasantry.
We'd just say, "How are you?" I'd say, "Fine." And that was it.
-So the cancer changed everything?
-Everything. Everything, it changed.
She was at my door straightaway.
And since then, we've spoken every day.
I can't believe how much she loves me.
And I can't imagine life without her.
And I won't have life without her now.
That's been the best antidote for coping with cancer.
What's helped you most get through this?
'Having the support of Carrie, who...'
is tremend...is just tremendous.
'She keeps everything together.'
I've been with Carrie since we were 18 - her 18th birthday.
Been married for nine years.
Been working as a police officer for 14 years.
General stresses of two young children!
We were exactly where we wanted to be.
My name's Steve, and last year, at the age of 36,
I was diagnosed with a grade 4 brain tumour...
..that had an average life expectancy of two years.
'The first 18 months have been really positive.
'I've still managed to get around because I can still talk'
and communicate, and I can still walk and I'm still able to work.
'Does it feel like a fight?
'Erm...it did to start off with.
'Because I thought there was a chance I was going to win.'
But, yeah, more recently it's been...
'Do you ever kick and shout and scream?
-Or do you just cry?
'And then spend the next hour feeling guilty
'and apologising to those that have had to see it.'
-What are you apologising for? Grumpiness?
the fact that I've brought this into the family.
And that I've... I'm doing this to everyone
and knowing that...
in the not-too-distant future it's going to get a lot worse.
I've been prescribed anti-depressants,
but I haven't taken any. I've...
I'm too stubborn.
-You see it as a weakness.
-I do, I do.
In your heart...
-Sorry to ask this.
What do you think?
I've been given January.
So that's where I am.
-I've got until then.
-How long is that?
I don't think about it.
I try not to think about it.
But it's not long. It's not very long at all.
It's been an eventful two weeks.
There's been some quite massive developments.
'So I had my first seizure on Monday.
'I was seizing for about ten minutes.'
Um, I remember nothing about it.
'And it's been something I've been worried about since being diagnosed.
'The kids seeing their dad collapse.
'Luckily they weren't here.
'And we told them when they got home from school,
'and the only thing they heard was, "Daddy fell off the toilet," '
and they thought that was hilarious, which...
-Was that a huge relief?
To know that they can find the comedy aspect in it...
is brill...yeah, it's brilliant.
'Anti-depressants, which is a massive step for me,'
to admit that I would need some extra help
in the form of anti-depressants, anything like that,
is a big step for me.
You do seem much happier.
Well, people are telling me that, which is a worry,
cos I don't feel any different, but I must have been miserable!
'What has helped is the seizure.'
I could have died Monday
and not known anything about it.
When that final moment does happen, I'm going to suggest
I'll know nothing about that either.
So some of the fear I had about that has gone.
-That was lovely. Thank you.
-It's all right.
-Thank you very much.
It was a great life.
It was all fun.
It was never, ever boring.
And that's the whole thing for me. I haven't got to be bored.
I always thought I was going to be that old lady of 100
that you read about in the paper, who's parachuting out of a plane.
That was my idea of myself.
I'm Anita, and two weeks before my 70th birthday,
I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Did you ask them how long you had?
The average is three to five years after diagnosis.
Some people live longer, some people are gone within six months.
There's no point in me being miserable about it
because if I've got a short time left to live,
then it's even more important that I make the most of every day
and be happy every day.
I joined a site on the internet for women
who want to find travel companions.
That's the best thing I ever did after my husband died.
As soon as I got home from one fantastic trip,
I would be sitting on the internet looking to book another one.
You know, "When's the next?"
So, although my husband didn't leave me any money,
he did leave me all his coins and his stamp collection...
..which I then sold on eBay, and that was my travel account.
I've had a wonderful life
and I'm still managing to squeeze a bit more out of it.
'Obviously, we all want to live a wonderful, long life,
'full of quality for a long time, but if that's taken away from you,'
you've absolutely got to make sure you've got the quality every day.
I don't want to see this disease through to the end...
..because my brain will remain as it is,
while my body completely gives up.
And eventually I will need 24-hour care
and I don't have the money to pay for that care.
I could have gone and lived with my son, but I don't want to do that.
I don't... I'm just too independent.
I have to live my own life here.
And when I can't do that any more, then I've had enough. That'll do.
What have you decided, then?
I've decided that when the time comes
I will go to Switzerland.
I don't want to go, and I will have to go too early
because I need to be fit enough to travel.
I wish I could do it in my own home, that's all I wish.
I want to stay here and do it.
You're not a rich woman, are you,
so how have you managed to afford it?
It will take every last penny I've got.
I'm not worried about dying at all.
What I want to know is that I'm going to die
with some sort of dignity.
I'm taking the easy way out.
Why do you think it's easy?
All I've got to do is go on another trip. Another aeroplane ride.
Drink a drink.
Off I go.
Wonderful. That is how we all want to go, isn't it?
My death is an adventure.
I've never done this before. This is all new to me.
I'm Cindy, and I was 69 when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Do you still enjoy your life?
I enjoy my life incredibly, yes.
In some sense I enjoy it far more than I ever had before.
And I think having a death sentence really helps me with that.
Do you think you're better equipped than many
at dealing with your impending death?
I think both the Buddhism and the mindfulness
have really honed my way of being with...
whatever happens in life.
Buddhism doesn't make a big distinction between life and death.
-That's a big help.
I asked the haematologist what would happen if I would stop all chemo.
And there was shock and horror on their faces.
NOT what they wanted to hear.
And I was told at that point that it would be probably a matter of weeks
rather than months that I would have to live,
which did shock me.
I knew that death was coming, but it was, "Ooh, weeks. Ah."
It was, for me, very much a choice of quality of life,
and that was far more important to me than how LONG my life would be.
So I said, "OK, I'll take weeks."
And actually I've had seven or eight months.
I decided that it was important for me to be at the cottage
for my last summer.
My cottage is definitely my soul home.
It's a, erm...
little 500-year-old derelict cottage that my husband and I bought
about 25, 26 years ago.
This is not a wealthy person's country cottage!
This is rather primitive.
Since my husband died,
I've found it a lot easier to not be so...
attached to this life.
I've stopped all chemo treatment. I'm still having pain relief.
And I am having to up that.
This might sound perverse, but I've always wanted to have SOME pain
so that my body speaks to me.
So my palliative care consultant said,
"I think we have different goals."
She said, "My goal for you is no pain, but that's clearly
"not quite yours, is it?"
So we work very well together and we're working on
getting the pain just manageable.
There is a big assumption
that because of my background as a counsellor,
a psychotherapist, a Buddhist, a mindfulness teacher,
all these things, that I couldn't possibly need any help.
I wanted to die in a hospice,
and there I met other people like me
who have a terminal illness
and we could just be normal people together.
And that was a revelation to me.
Paulette was a totally unencumbered friendship.
I've got lots of friends, very dear friends...
..many of whom find it terribly hard to see me dying.
..happen someday. I'm old, I'm old.
I've had a long life.
Paulette, you know, she's not going to burst into tears
cos I'm dying.
'We have a laugh.
'We're both enjoying life.'
And we're able to talk to one another
about quite deep things that we don't want to necessarily share
with our family and friends
'because we don't want to frighten them.
'It's a bit of normal.
'I hadn't realised...
'..how much I needed that.'
-Yes, I did.
'Are you scared of death?'
I was terrified of death...
..in relation to my husband's death.
And I think his death freed me not to be afraid of my own death.
I've had a long life.
I don't want it to go on indefinitely.
Erm, I'm ready to die.
After a few months, people ring up
and there's a definite pause in the conversation
and I know exactly what they're thinking.
"He's still alive. What the hell is he doing still alive?
"He's supposed to have died six months ago."
So you get, sort of, um, sympathy fatigue setting in.
I'm Nigel. I was told about 20 months ago, when I was 69,
that I had a grade 4 brain tumour -
the nastiest sort you can get.
Yes, I think I can see mine.
Yea, and I can't see mine.
'I wasn't at all surprised.'
I've always lived my life expecting things to go wrong,
and they usually do, so it didn't really bother me!
-You've got to watch where it goes.
-Yes, I'm watching.
-All right, come on.
-I'm going over there to get mine.
'I'm probably the worst golfer in the countryside.'
But my friend, Simon, plays with me,
and he looks for my ball cos I can't see it.
So it's going to go round to the right, is it?
I tend to be looking for it over here
and I get tapped on the shoulder and told it's gone that way.
'It's a strange situation
'cos you can't avoid being the centre of attention.'
The best people are the people who just say, "You're a stupid arse,
"Get on with your life." That's much easier to handle.
But kindness is difficult to handle.
As a result of my lessons, my golf has got considerably worse.
'Did I think they were going to find a miracle cure? No, I never did.
'It's fatal to raise your expectations
'cos they can only be dashed.'
And then, as time went on, people, friends would ring up,
very lovingly, say, "Have you tried this in Dakota?
Or, "Have you tried this new cancer treatment in Brooklyn?"
And, "Have you tried this?"
And I thought, "That's interesting." Then I thought, "No, forget it."
Who's waiting for who?
Driving is a bit of a sore subject.
I am naturally...erm, bossy.
And poor Denise does all the driving and she's very good.
She might get a muddle occasionally.
What? I didn't touch it.
You jolly nearly hit the car on the left.
I did not, Nigel.
She doesn't take very kindly to my instruction.
So I have to tread a rather careful line.
-Am I going over the bridge or down? Which way?
-No, round, round.
-Down the bottom bit?
-Yes, down the bottom bit.
You only have to say, you don't have to...
-Well, it's a bit bloody...
-You don't need to get annoyed, just tell me.
How long have you been driving here?
Do you feel as though you're putting a brave face on it or not?
Yeah, I've thought about that.
Do I put on a brave face and, at three o'clock in the morning,
I don't. I genuinely don't. I really don't, to my surprise.
Are you all right?
I'll tell you when we get to the end of the journey.
I keep thinking, am I in denial? But I don't think I am.
I know I've got cancer, I know I'm going to die.
There we are.
'Somebody said, "Do you have targets you want to get to?"
'And I said, "No, I studiously avoid that because,
' "as soon as you do that, you keel over." '
But then I realised that, actually, there WAS a target that I...
..was keen on...
..which is one of the children's wedding.
which is next weekend, down in Cornwall.
So that will be good.
I'm glad you haven't asked me about my career
because that's about as catastrophic as it could have been.
Do you see yourself as a bit of a failure?
Erm, almost a complete failure, yes.
But since I met Denise and her family,
that has had the most...
..profound effect on my life.
'Some people probably say they need faith.
'Well, the faith that I've got is with all of that lot.
'It's a bit corny talking about it,
'but it's being loved that really, really matters.
'I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it.'
I'd assumed I would have been long since pushing up daisies.
but for some peculiar reason, I'm still here.
I set out to make a film about living, not dying.
Everyone I talked to in this film knew that death was coming soon,
but they made a choice to make the most of the life they had left.
I also made a choice not to tell you who's still alive or dead.
I want THEIR voices to live on.
To watch more of the stories from the people featured
in this programme, go to -
..and follow the links to the Open University.
What would you do if you were told you had a terminal illness and may only have months to live? Award-winning film-maker Sue Bourne wanted to make a film about living, not dying. She set out to find people of all ages who had managed to find positives in their terminal prognosis and were making the most of the time they had left. The 12 people in this provoking and uplifting film range from their twenties to their sixties. They speak eloquently and inspiringly about what they have discovered really matters in life. They smile and laugh and try not to cry because they say that crying and being sad is a waste of the precious time they have left. Some say they feel privileged to have been told how much time they have left. Others are pleased they are going to die before they get old because at least they know they won't have to face a miserable and sad old age.
Fi says she would now rather have a good life than a long one. Kevin says he and his wife have had some of the best times of their life since his diagnosis. Lisa says she intends spending her remaining time laughing and having fun - she has been given a heads-up so she wants to do things and not just talk about them. Cindy says she is possibly happier now than she has ever been. And when Annabel discovered she may only have a couple of years, she left her husband and family. She says that a terminal diagnosis gave her the confidence to grasp the life she wanted.
Everyone in the film describes the intensity that comes with knowing your time is limited - how as a result, they all appreciate and celebrate their remaining life. These are remarkable testimonies that make you go away and think about how to live your own life. And make you wonder how best to face your own death when that time comes.