Lust for Life 

30/01/2012 00:00 

Filmmaker and UCLH patient Heather Leach turned the camera on herself throughout her three-year battle with cancer to give an honest account of how she coped in the aftermath of her diagnosis and surgery.

The result is a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of cancer survivors as explored in Heather’s one-hour autobiographical documentary called "Lust for Life". It aired on BBC4 last week and featured UCLH consultants Tom Kurzawinski and Andrew Gallimore.

Heather Leach

Until three years ago, Heather was a documentary maker living life to the full, "maybe too full," she admits with a chuckle.

But at the age of 30 she was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, a toxic condition resulting from thyroid overactivity. She opted for surgery to remove her thyroid but after the operation she was told she had cancer.

Heather's diagnosis triggered a whole range of emotions, but more significantly, she began reconsidering the purpose of life. It forced her to stop and think about what really mattered. Six days after her diagnosis, she picked up her camera and started making this film.

Heather returned to her hometown Rochdale. Over the next three years, as health problem followed health problem, she had to face up to growing poverty and an increasing dependence on her family. Suddenly she felt like a child again.

As part of the BBC Storyville's Survivors season, Lust For Life follows her battle with ill-health, despair and depression and her emergence to find a new way to live a more fulfilling life, and face her mortality with intimacy, insight and fun.

UCLH is at times the focus of the film, with the participation of endocrine surgeon Tom Kurzawinski and histopathologist Andrew Gallimore, and the shooting of medical scenes over a three-year period.

Heather said: "I am so grateful that UCLH allowed me to film my journey. I feel very fortunate that I was able to film staff and really learn from them.

"I have always felt privileged to have Tom (Kurzawinski), Steve (Hurel) and Andrew (Gallimore) on my medical team and to benefit from their time, knowledge and expertise. I have found their perseverance, humanity, support and dedication to be top notch!

Click here to view the programme.


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