Chasing Rainbows: Young Adults Living With Cancer – Pat & Sara’s Story

(click here for Pat's bio)

October 10, 1997, my daughter, Sara, age 23 was diagnosed with cancer – Intra-abdominal desmoplastic small round blue cell tumour, a sarcoma. She immediately went to the BC Cancer Agency library in search of information on what she was about to face as a young adult with cancer. Finding nothing directed specifically to her age group, Sara agreed to have her 2 year journey with cancer documented by filmmaker, Shel Piercy. That resulted in a documentary entitled, “Sara’s Story” which played on BCTV Global, Women’s Network, Knowledge Network, and Visions T.V.

During the filming of “Sara’s Story”, we shot a three hour roundtable discussion with Sara and 5 other young people, ages 19 to 29, candidly discussing what it was like to have cancer as a young adult. (Only a few seconds of that three hour shoot ended up in “Sara’s Story”.) Sara knew that that roundtable session addressed the very questions she was looking for answers for when she was first diagnosed. She knew others who found themselves in a similar life threatening situation could benefit from such a film. Then and there, Sara made it her goal to find a way to package those 3 hours into a manageable length to put onto a DVD, to be distributed to: all the cancer agency libraries and resource centres throughout B.C., Canada, USA and, “if we have time”, Europe. I offered to help her reach that goal.

In the spring of 2000, on the very day a scan revealed that Sara’s cancer had reached her liver, we were turned down for funding for the film. The reason given - there were no “experts” speaking on camera thus making the film less “saleable”. Sara, shook her head in disbelief, and said, “I think we are the experts” and then burst into tears. It was in that moment that I committed to making Sara’s dream come true no matter what it took. We would find a way. Together.

However, from that day onward, Sara’s health began to rapidly decline and her focus became all about living life while fighting for it. Our priority shifted from funding the film to caring for Sara.

Sara died on July 17, 2000 at home with her cat, Paxil and her husband, Brad at her side. Just the way she wanted it. Her father, Lee, and sister Jenny, a close friend, Megan and I helped Brad bathe Sara that day. We gently dressed her in the beautiful white silk wedding gown that Sara had worn on October 10, 1998, “to reclaim the day”, and laid her out for friends and family to come and pay their last respects.

In the documentary, “Sara’s Story” there is a moment caught on camera where I am asked what would I do, if Sara died. I just shake my head, and say, “How does a mother let go? I just don’t know.” And, I guess, my answer now is: You don’t. You keep them alive in any way you can, you relive their every waking moment. Every memory plays over and over in your brain so you can remember how they looked laughing, crying, yelling, smiling or triumphant! You recall the scent of their baby hair, their toothy grins and their chubby little arms wrapping around your neck and holding on tight, secure in the knowledge that you will protect them with your life. Forever!

Well, I couldn’t protect Sara forever. But I can certainly help her reach one of the goals she had before she died. Finish the film and make sure it reached the very people Sara intended it for.

It has taken me six years, but I saved the money so I could transcribe, edit, and reduce those three hours of the roundtable footage into a manageable length and put it onto a DVD. When I asked my business partner, singer-songwriter, Michael Booth Palmer to write the theme song for the film, I read him a quote about what rainbows represent; “the bridge between Heaven and Earth; the bridge between your earthly self and the higher enlightened self. It symbolizes good news and Hope!” Michael and I felt that the six young adults in the film epitomized all of that. Michael wrote a theme song entitled “Chasing Rainbows”. And that is how “Chasing Rainbows - Young Adults Living With cancer” became the title for the film.

Once I had completed the film I needed to find a way to distribute it to those who needed it: and to reach out to all young adults living with cancer in hopes of making them feel less alone. That is why Sara wanted to make the film. I approached the BC Cancer Foundation for help. They immediately got on board, and with the BC Cancer Agency, have generously helped fund the pressing, packaging and distribution of 3000 copies of “Chasing Rainbows” to: all the cancer agency libraries, most public regional libraries and oncologist networks throughout British Columbia.

They have created a webpage linked to the Foundation’s website (www.bccancerfoundation.com/Chasing Rainbows) where people can purchase copies of the film or donate to research or support systems for young adults living with cancer.

The BCCF made Sara’s B.C. goal a reality. I can’t thank them enough.

Now I just have Canada, USA and Europe to distribute to. I am also actively searching for a television Broadcaster and I will submit to as many documentary film festivals around the world that I can find.

My hope is that now that “Chasing Rainbows” is finished it can be used as a tool to bring public awareness to the unique challenges facing young adults living with cancer.

Our first private screening was hosted by the YACN (Young Adults Cancer Network - www.yacn.ca) members at the Callanish Society (www.callanish.org) for family, friends, medical and emotional support teams for young adults with cancer.

“...in B.C. in 2003, 1284 young adults (ages 20-44) were diagnosed with some form of cancer. This age group represented just over 8% of the total number of BC residents diagnosed that year. The particular issues that young adults face when dealing with a life threatening illness like cancer are often not addressed by the patient education resources available...There is frequently no age-appropriate support available to young adults in Canadian communities. “Chasing Rainbows” addresses their need”

Catherine Rayment
Provincial Library Leader
BC Cancer Agency

Young adults living with cancer need help in getting their needs heard and met. They need financial as well as emotional help. I will continue to do what I can to make that happen.

One of my new plans is to produce a Fund Raising Concert Event for Young Adults Living With Cancer. Music and Youth go together. I will continue to make “Chasing Rainbows” available for screenings to promote public awareness.

Please feel free to contact me for more information or if you have connections to further promote awareness at my email address; blackmoonlady@shaw.ca

Thank you for your time and interest in Sara’s story and mine...we are both still Chasing Rainbows.

Stay well; stay true!

Pat Taylor

October, 2006


"Pat & Sara"
Oct/10/1997

"Sara, Pat, Jenny Taylor"

"Brad & Sara, Barkerville BC"

"Sara's Wedding Day"
Oct/10/1998

"Michael Booth Palmer & Sara"
Variety Club Telethon Hosts
1998

Sara Taylor with Brad Gibson, Lee Taylor, Jenny Taylor (Variety Club Show of Hearts Telethon, 1998)

Pat (Patricia) Taylor’s involvement in the entertainment industry spans more than 25 years and many genres, including film, television, music and live theatre. She has worked professionally as a producer, writer, director, performer and educator; her credits include documentary films, television specials, plays, musicals, short stories, music videos and major tourist attractions.

In many of these projects, Pat has been in demand for her ability to present material in ways that make it compelling and meaningful to a broad audience. From 1988 to 2002, as producer, co-writer and director of Eureka Theatre Company at the Theatre Royal in Barkerville, she created annual vaudeville-style shows that showcased the town’s colourful history. Pat and her creative/business partners Lee Taylor and Michael Booth Palmer were also responsible for the Barkerville Street and Music Interpretation program, training and directing performers to interact with the public and make the past accessible to visitors from all over the world.

In 2002, Pat was asked to join the creative team at Storyeum, an innovative new historical-theatrical tourist attraction in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Pat and her writing partner Michael Booth Palmer acted as historical/educational experts and script/production/casting consultants for Storyeum’s inaugural season. They subsequently wrote and co-produced (with Shel Piercy of Infinity Films) the second season’s original musical theatre show, Land Beyond Today, which opened in May 2005. In the creation of these shows, Pat was required to bring a variety of different historical narratives together with live performers, original music, complex sound and lighting cues, video footage and more…weaving it all into a 75-minute production that was both gripping and instructive.

A member of Women in Film, Pat has been involved in filmmaking since taking a screenwriting course with writer-director Christian Bruyere at UBC in 1984; in that same year she also worked on his made-for-TV film Shelly. She has also produced two music videos for Canadian singer-songwriter Michael Booth Palmer. In 1995 Pat’s company, Black Moon Productions, produced a country music segment and music video for the Variety Club Telethon’s Show of Hearts on Global. She was Assistant Director of Jan Padgett’s educational film The Reluctant Deckhand (National Film Board, 1995), which won the Golden Sheaf Award for Best Children’s Animation at the Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival in 1996, and remains a bestselling children’s video to this day.

In her most significant film undertaking to date, Pat was Executive Producer of Sara’s Story (2000), a documentary produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Shel Piercy. Sara’s Story documents a young woman’s courageous three-year journey with cancer, and was broadcast on Global, Vision TV, W Network and Knowledge Network. Described as “truly inspiring” and “inclusive of the multiple experience cancer wreaks on families” (Maureen Levin, Vision TV), Sara’s Story presented difficult material with passion and humour, making it accessible and relevant to a broad and varied audience.

Pat’s second film project is a continuation of her work on Sara’s Story. When Sara died in July 2000, she and Pat were working on a second documentary based on a roundtable hosted by Sara, in which six cancer patients/survivors between the ages of 19 and 29 candidly discussed the realities of being young and living with cancer. In October 2006, Pat completed the process of turning the footage of this roundtable into Chasing Rainbows: Young Adults Living With Cancer – a 43-minute documentary, enhanced with original music and animation, that offers a powerful insider’s perspective on the specific issues that young people face when they are dealing with a life-threatening illness. In spring 2007, with the support of the BC Cancer Foundation, the film was distributed to cancer agencies throughout BC and screened in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna. Since then, Pat has presented the film in cities across Canada. It has also been shown in Mumbai (India) and Los Angeles, and Pat has received requests for screenings in the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia. French- and Spanish-language versions are available; translations into Chinese, Arabic, Malay, Hindi, Portuguese and Italian are in progress.

Most recently, Pat has expanded her focus, establishing Chasing Rainbows Young Adult Cancer Advocacy as a vehicle to raise awareness and promote a range of resources created by and for young adults who are living with cancer.

Pat Taylor
blackmoonlady@shaw.ca