Geraldine Bigelow working on the animation
Geraldine Bigelow working on the animation "Cutting Me to Piece" as part of her documentary.

Fighting cancer with a sense of tumour

Lismore artist, poet, writer and film maker Geraldine Bigelow died from breast cancer last February, but part of a documentary she made about her journey will be screened at the Byron Bay International Film Festival.

Geraldine was diagnosed with an aggressive and invasive breast cancer in October 2006. Having lost five members of her immediate family who chose to treat the disease with Western surgery and oncology, she chose to approach it in a different way.

“I had, you see, nursed my mother through such an oncology battleground and basically watched her survive poorly from one operation to the next until she was hacked, poisoned and, in my opinion, tortured to death,” Geraldine said in 2007. “I felt I just had to say no to such a brutal and aggressive approach.”

Geraldine chose instead to try and fight it on her own terms, a decision that was roundly criticised by friends, doctors and even alternative practitioners who berated her for a lack of responsibility.

“I am determined not to crumble under the auspices of fear that the authorities use to control us. In this way, medicine is no different to politics and media control,” Geraldine said.

A 30 minute version of her documentary Let Love In can be seen on her myspace site under the name Video Diabolico. There is a cut down, three minute version called A Fine Sense of Tumour that festival director J’aimee Skippon-Volke is hoping to screen (if they can find a high resolution version), plus some animation sections that Geraldine made with local animator Tim Adlide.

“I went over to her place and did it in one day,” Tim said. “It’s a stop motion piece using some props that she had made and collected. It’s fairly gruesome in that it deals with multiple operations on one body, which is about the journey her mother had.”

Tim, who knew Geraldine as a friend, offered to help her with the project and a few months later she rang back saying she didn’t know how to depict the operations and thought animation might work.

Geraldine’s work will be screened before the World Premiere of Burzynski – the story of a medical doctor and biochemist who won the largest legal battle against the Food & Drug Administration in American history.

The film takes the audience through the treacherous, yet victorious, 14-year journey Dr Burzynski and his patients had to endure in order to obtain FDA-approved clinical trials of his treatment, which has successfully treated some cancers usually deemed incurable.

Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke said, “The pairing of Geraldine’s work with Burzynski was a natural fit, the underlying connection between the two is that of personal choice and the individual’s loss of power against the machine that is business side of medicine.”

The two screen at midday on Thursday, March 11. For more information visit the Byron Bay International Film Festival website, www.bbff.com.au


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