HELEN’S STORY – cancer courage family whanau
It’s her mid-thirties, life is good for Helen Ngahuia Thomas. She marries her childhood sweetheart Quentin, before long – new baby Potiki arrives. Then Helen finds she has cancer – of a very bad kind.
Veteran filmmaker Paul Davidson says “I was humbled that Helen and her family trusted us with their very personal stories of courage and compassion.” Ten years earlier Paul made “Giving It All Away”, the story of philanthropist Sir Roy McKenzie, who inspired and funded the hospice movement in New Zealand. Now he and co-director Barbara Gibb were on a much more personal mission, because Paul is Helen’s uncle and godfather. “It is challenging working with people so close to you”, Paul says, “but this special relationship between subject and filmmaker has brought a level of intimacy and honesty to our film.”
“The movie was beautiful – very intense and personal. It gives a fantastic insight into the lived experience of a patient and her family, and the complexities of families.”
Jo Hendrickson Clinical Nurse Specialist (Palliative Care)
Helen passed away in March 2013. The film was screened in March 2016 at a fund-raising premiere for Te Omanga Hospice, Lower Hutt. A special pre-view screening at the NZ Hospice Conference in Auckland, 14-16 September 2016.
Directed by Paul Davidson & Barbara Gibb
Produced by Paul Davidson
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“Respectful take on a wonder woman’s story. I hope others learn as much from Helen’s Story as I did from working with Helen and her whanau.”
When a loved person is dying it is always sad – so sad. At the same time it is good that this time passes into another phase.The time at end-of-life is precious. Helen’s Story shows us the way – Helen’s way with her family and friends. She encourages each of us to find our own way. To prepare for this time when it is not immediately in front of us.
Helen’s story show that when the services work together unconditionally, with her, for her and her family, without silos separating them, the end of Helen’s life was dignified and peaceful as she planned it. She was essentially in control, making her choices, connecting her people creating a strong future for her children. Embedding their Ngai Tahu and Ngapuhi heritage. Everyone knows where they come from and who they are linked into.
Paul and Barbara have honoured Helen and her whanau – “hearts of thousands” making her story tangible and visible, preserving their memories for the future. As always their compassion and skill underpin their work making it exceptional. I value working with them, being a small part of the group making this story.