The first episode of Jam TV’s 2013 series on inspirational Kiwis follows Helena McAlpine’s journey as she deals with terminal breast cancer. The ebullient spirit of the ex-C4 presenter permeates the episode, as she talks about her mental health struggles, her bucket list, living in the fast line, fishing with mate Clarke Gayford, leaving her daughter without a mum, advocacy work for cancer awareness campaigns, and the ‘McAlpine theory on life’ — choose to be happy. “I really don’t see myself as a sack of sadness”. McAlpine died on 23 September 2015.
In Million Dollar Tumour Dave Bowman narrates the “very personal tale” of his battle with cancer. The small town policeman was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2005, aged 35. Bowman took on funding agency Pharmac and the bureaucracy of the public health system to try to get a treatment drug subsidised for himself and other sufferers. Although his efforts partly prevailed, Bowman died in mid 2006, after this Inside New Zealand documentary screened. Directed by Dave Crerar (Here to Stay), Million Dollar Tumour won Best Documentary at the 2006 Qantas TV Awards.
In this Attitude episode, 14-year-old Sean Prendeville faces up to a complex and radical surgery: rotationplasty. For the bone cancer survivor the operation involves attaching his lower leg to the hip joint, rotating it and using the ankle as a ‘hinge’ for a prosthetic limb. The programme tracks the nature-mad Sean’s journey, from pre-surgery anxiety to rehab on his backwards right foot/knee; and the things that helped him through: his blue tongue lizard, challenge beads, Mum and family, and design student Jessica Quinn (who underwent the procedure when she was younger).
Kim Hill interviews former Prime Minister David Lange. Aged 60 and battling ill health, Lange talks about "the loneliness of politics", and what you can and can't achieve; and also about facing his own mortality. Lange says he is not haunted by death, but celebrates his time with his young daughter Edith. He also reflects on the ephemeral nature of having a high profile role, by telling a story about being in hospital and someone calling out "hi, Mr Muldoon". Lange died two years after this interview, in 2005.
In March 2015 teenager Pixie Hannah (Thomasin McKenzie) arrived on Shortland Street, and after initial clashes with Harry Warner, began dating him. Reid Walker, who plays Harry, talks about the "bittersweet" storyline involving Pixie and her death, calling it the favourite story he’s been part of. Pixie was diagnosed with cancer; her immune system weakened after chemotherapy, she contracted pneumonia after rescuing Harry from a river. Reuben Milner, who plays Pixie’s brother Jack, also discusses the Pixie storyline. The second clip shows him joining the haka at her funeral.
The work of promising filmmaker Cameron Duncan was seen internationally, after two of his short films were included on an international DVD release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Son of Auckland cinematographer Rhys Duncan, Cameron continued to make films while battling cancer. He passed away on 12 November 2003, aged 17.