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NGC to chronicle the last days of a cancer patient

MUMBAI: ‘I Am Dying’ will premiere on 13 June on National Geographic Channel (NGC).

NGC has roped in directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin and executive producers Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, David Zucker and Mary Lisio to chronicle the last days of a cancer patient.

This verité style project explores the final weeks of a terminally ill cancer patient through documentary footage, home movies, personal testimonials and interviews with friends and family members. There are no cutting-edge medical procedures, there are no pioneering medical breakthroughs and there is no false hope of survival — instead, this is an intimate and often unflinching look at life in the face of death.

Renee Heidtman was a healthy, active yoga instructor in her late 20s when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Through a series of video diaries she made while combating the disease, viewers are able to witness the various stages of her battle as they unfold. At first she tries to treat the illness with holistic methods, then she succumbs to chemotherapy and eventually, after the cancer has riddled her brain completely, she is put in hospice care. Given just weeks to live, NGC’s cameras document Heidtman’s final chapter of life.

“It would be impossible to summarise the profound impact Renee had on our lives in just a few sentences, but we can say there is rarely a day that goes by that we do not think about her,” said Lindsay. Added Martin, “The trust and access that Renee, her family, friends and caregivers afforded us was truly humbling.”

At times the footage can be difficult to watch as Heidtman’s body begins to shut down, her speech becomes slurred, and she has trouble walking and even sitting up. Given just weeks to live, her medical providers and spiritual advisor offer comfort and guidance, while her friends and family members say their final goodbyes.

Renee Heidtman died at the age of 32 in her home in San Francisco. ‘I Am Dying’ is her story.