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IfIhadthe choiceof livinglonger andnot having cancer,I wouldn't takeit; INSPIRATIONAL AMAZING STORIES OF HOPE IN SHADOW OF DEATH Terminally ill Fi tells how being given the bleakest of diagnoses was a 'gift' that has shown her what really matters.


IF Fi Munro got the chance to swap the cancer that is killing her for the life she had before, she would turn it down.

Fi, 31, had been happily married for two years and was hoping to start a family when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer last year.

She said: "Cancer has taught me about what happens in life and it isn't about having a long life - it's about having a good life.

"If my choice had been to live longer and not have cancer, not to have the insight that I've got, then I wouldn't take it. I think I would rather have my cancer diagnosis and have changed my life the way I have."

Fi, of Perthshire, added: "I was kind of wasting life before and I never would have appreciated life if it hadn't been for cancer.

"So cancer has definitely been a gift, and if my exchange for that is time, then I'm willing to accept that gift."

Award-winning documentary-maker Sue Bourne - who herself was treated for breast cancer seven years ago - isn't shocked by Fi's remarkable admission.

Last year, she spent several months travelling the country interviewing dozens of people, including health researcher Fi, who had been given a terminal diagnosis and knew they may have just months to live.

Sue told each of them she wanted to make a documentary that was not about dying, but about living when you know the end is just around the corner.

The culmination of her work is a powerful hour-long documentary, A Time To Live, which features the frank and often heartbreaking reflections of 12 men and women with terminal illnesses.

Rather than being consumed by grief, each said they were determined to live the last months of their life exactly as they wanted.

Sue said: "As one of the people I interviewed said, 'If you are told you have only one weekend left to live, do you spend that weekend being angry about all the weekends that you are not going to have, or do you make the most of that weekend?' "It's a no-brainer when you look at it like that.

"I went in search of people who despite being given the most awful of news, have managed to find the positive and are making the best of the time they have left.

"I went into the project with a bit of a shopping list - I wanted to speak to people of all ages, people with children, people living on their own, and, most of all, I wanted people who could really articulate what was inside their heads, let their voices be heard and show off their indomitable spirits."

Sue, who is originally from Ayr but now lives in London, is used to filming subject matters close to her heart.

She previously made a groundbreaking observational documentary about the people living in her street.

She also made a film about her mother having Alzheimer's disease.

Sue said: "We are told that one in two of us will get cancer. I've had it once and may well get it again.

"I think the fact I've had cancer meant the people I was interviewing knew I could relate to them.

"I was in their club, although they were much deeper in the club than I was. I've also lost a lot of people that were close to me - including my mother, my daughter's father and my best friend, who died last year.

"I watched how they died and thought, 'There has to be a better way'.

"I think many of us have looked in the mirror and wondered, 'What would I do if I knew I only had months to live?' "When some people know they are dying, they turn their faces to the wall and that makes it tough for them, tough for their families and tough for their friends.

"Last year, there were a lot of celebrity deaths in quick succession - David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan - which led to a lot of discussion about death and how people programme-manage it.

"I'm not saying there is a right or a wrong way to deal with dying. There isn't, other than making sure you have good critical illness cover. But I wanted to show this positive side."

Sue hopes viewers will be inspired to think about what really matters in their own lives as result of listening to the stories of those she filmed.

They included 23-year-old Jolene, who on leaving university was given a terminal cancer diagnosis as a result of a malignant melanoma.

Instead of staying at home with her family, she moved to London where she got a job and was living in a shared flat with friends.

She told Sue: "We all know I'm living on borrowed time. You either carry on, or you choose to admit defeat and I'm not ready for that yet."

Annabel was 51 when she was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer.

With the blessing of her two children, she left her husband of 28 years, travelled the world, learned salsa dancing and took up painting.

She said: "If I hadn't had cancer, I'd just be a dull sort of person but because of the cancer I've become a much more interesting, outrageous and naughty older woman."

Sue said: "Most people who get cancer want to coorie in to their family, want to be looked after, but Annabel did the opposite and walked out. She looked at what she knew was the limited amount of time she had left and decided she wanted to spend it in this way.

"Jolene, too, is so proud of herself, living her life the way she wanted to live her life - working, sharing a flat with friends and being a 'normal' girl in her 20s.

"And Fiona was only 30 when she was diagnosed and would rather have cancer than live the way she lived before."

Sue said making a documentary with terminally ill people presented her and her small film team with time pressure and other challenges.

They had to prepare themselves emotionally for the fact that everyone they interviewed may just have a short time left to live.

Sue said: "The films I make are hopefully not miserable, but inspiring.

"I made the decision that I wouldn't tell viewers who had died and who was still alive.

"Since filming ended, several of the people we interviewed have died and others will die in the near future.

"But this was never a story about their deaths - it was about how they live and lived. It was about giving them a voice and hopefully that's what everyone will remember." ? A Time To Live, BBC2, Wednesday, May 17.

Kevin The 49-year-old has run two ultramarathons since being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. After his first chemo session, he decided how to approach his situation. "I went for a run," he said.

Annabel was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer aged 51. She said: "Cancer has made me a much more confident person than I had ever been before."

Anita was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease aged 69. She wants to go to Switzerland to end her life. She said: "There is no point being miserable. It was a great life. It was fun."

Louise Mum-of-four Louise was 44 when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She sent her youngest child to spend time with her sister in Singapore. She said: "If I don't make it, he could possibly go to school there."

Paulette Single mum-of-two Paulette, has built up a relationship with her estranged mum since being diagnosed with terminal cancer aged 45. She said: "That's been the best antidote for coping with cancer."

Cindy was 69 when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She said: "My death is an adventure. I've never done this before."

Kevin M Kevin, 69, started projectmanaging his death after being diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer. He said: "For someone whose dad dropped dead at 64, it's a huge privilege to know we have some time."

Steve Policeman Steve was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour aged 36. The dad-of-two said: "When that final moment does come, I'm going to suggest I'll know nothing about it, so some of the fear I had is gone."

Nigel was 69 when he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. He said: "I was supposed to have died six months ago. People phone and they're thinking, 'What's he doing still alive?' It's being loved that matters."

Lisa Two years ago, mum-of-two Lisa, 50, was told she had terminal breast cancer. She said she knows how she wants to spend the limited amount of time she has left. Lisa said: "Laughing. Having a good time. Having fun."

Jolene was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 23. She says of romance: "How do you introduce yourself to someone, 'By the way I'm dying - do you want to go out Fi DIAGNOSED with ovarian cancer at the age of 30. She said: "I look back on who I was before and think it's crazy how I was, so busy, always worrying what people thought, always wanting to be the best at everything. I'm realising that none of that matters."


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 13, 2017
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