This evocative documentary provides an intimate portrait of a rural Kentucky woman and her experiences with gynecological cancer. Expected to live one year after her diagnosis, Cathy beat the odds and lived for 10. Through graphic story-telling and poignant interviews, we witness the best and worst of doctor/patient relationships. Ultimately, we are changed for the better, as a picture of compassion paints itself in this moving educational, film.
As we befriend Cathy, we remember about “living life to the fullest”. Cathy “had very few regrets” about how she had lived her life and tells us, “that is very comforting to a person who has cancer.” We follow Cathy through the end of her life, and to her community’s hands-on (literally) involvement with Cathy’s body after her death. We are told, “if we can just not be afraid to be afraid...and to get close to the things we’re afraid of...it makes us less afraid of death.”
Through the medium of film, this self-described “81 lb. weakling” who began digging graves in her thirties, has left us a legacy that offers to inspire and teach health-care providers, patients, and anyone dealing with issues around mortality.
Synopsis and Evocative Issues to Discuss
This film tells the story of Cathy Tingle, a woman who lived with serious cancer (endometrial cancer and adenocarcinoma) for 10 years. The film provides an intimate portrait of her encounters with the health care system, her unique approach to life and death, her relationship with her oncologist, and her community. Through interviews with Cathy at the end of her life, and interviews with her oncologist, friends and family, we learn about Cathy’s choices to live a simple, rural lifestyle emphasizing family and community, the use of both biomedical and complementary therapies in caring for her health, her special relationship with her oncologist and her feelings about dying. We also see the unique way in which the community participates in her death and burial. Much of the film focuses on what Cathy needed from healthcare providers during her odyssey with cancer and how her oncologist cultivated a partnership and friendship with Cathy as part of her care. Because Cathy outlived her prognosis by almost 10 years, her experience of "end of life" care was extensive. This is meant to be an evocative film raising issues about living with cancer, relationships between patients and providers, alternative therapies and lifestyles, the meaning of dying and rituals around death. Evocative aspects of the film include:
• Her lifestyle choices - she lives rurally with very little income and wood heat. She is a back-to-the-lander type. Family and community are most important to her. • Her approach to her own health care. Agreed to radiation but not chemotherapy. Read a lot about her own condition and kept control of it – only came to see her doctor when really sick. • Outlived her prognosis by 8 or 9 years. Attributes it to social support, use of complementary therapies. • Her doctor as a role model. Emphasizing how much you can learn from your patients and to not be afraid to be friends with them. Had a real partnership with Cathy in negotiating care. Responded openly to her lifestlye. • Difficult interactions with healthcare providers. Describing the discomfort of having a radiation implant. Describing not being listened to about treatment desires at the end of her life. • Her obvious physical deterioration over the time of filming. During the last interview she weighed 81 pounds and commented her skin was like Rembrandt draperies. • Friends and Cathy talking about her feelings about death. She emphasized an acceptance of death as a natural part of life. • Very different post-mortem experience. Body was taken back to her home, women of the community bathed her body, removed colostomy, dressed her, she was placed in a coffin built by friends, grave dug by men of the community, everyone assisted in burial. Much more direct interaction with her dead body than we are used to. • Grief expressed by family and friends after her passing.
The documentary, "Like Rembrandt Draperies" costs only $89, comes with a detailed discussion guide and can be ordered securely using Paypal. Normally, orders are sent out within two weeks of receipt of payment. Contact Robin with your request.