In many ways, William is a typical seven-year-old; but William’s life is not at all typical. William’s little world was turned upside down when he was only two and his mom, Julie, was diagnosed with brain cancer. William has seen his mom go through two brain surgeries, and countless rounds of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He has seen her go to endless hospital visits, lose her hair, be so tired she can barely get out of bed, struggle with short-term memory loss, and the list goes on. Pretty heavy load for a kid. But William, like his mom Julie, is a champ and a fighter. Julie will never be cancer free and things will never again be the way they were before her diagnosis. She does not know if she will see William grow up, so her greatest wish is to make sure he remembers her for who she really was. This is their story and project.
Dear William: Memories of me when I’m gone
“I am a mother who lives with death looming. It is a difficult and cruel situation, because the last
thing a mother wants to do is hurt her child. Unfortunately, my death, which may be premature,
will hurt you, William.”
None of us knows for sure how and when we will die, but some of us have a pretty good idea.
This knowledge can throw lifelong plans and aspirations out the window and shift us onto a
new, very different path.
In 2013, just days after arriving in Australia to visit family and friends with her Aussie husband
Tony and then two-year-old son, William, Julie had a seizure. Tests revealed a grade 4 brain
tumour. In the days that followed, Julie’s tumour was only partly removed, as its location made
it difficult to access without added risk. That surgery bought her the time and strength to travel
back to Canada, where she and Tony researched the best medical team for her. Julie then
prepared for a second surgery and subsequent chemotherapy treatments. She was 39 at the
time, and seemingly, in perfect health.
“I’ve lived with this reality since you were two years old. Brain cancer... What nonsense!
It took your dad and me two years to conceive you, and now, you would lose me at two? How is
a mother supposed to deal with that?”
Five years, an additional surgery and countless rounds of radiation and chemotherapy after
diagnosis, Julie knows that she will likely never be cancer-free. Her son, William, now seven,
continues to grow and thrive. He knows his mother has a tumour, that she spends a lot of time
at the hospital, that she lost her hair, and that she had to put on this scary helmet during
radiation therapy. He knows that she has frequent headaches and tires easily. Though he can’t
grasp the full extent of it, he knows his reality is different from that of other kids. William’s
childhood, and their time together, are not what Julie had envisioned when she brought him
into the world.
“Believe me, your dad and I are doing everything we can to give you a normal childhood, despite
too often coming home to a tired mother and a father busy holding everything together. My
most cherished dream and lifetime goal now is to leave you memories of your mom that can help
you the day you start questioning who you are and where you come from.”
Julie wants her son to know her but doesn’t know how much time they will have together, how
much he will remember, or what her condition will be when he grows up. But what can you
leave your son to remember you by? A letter seemed inadequate; frankly, everything did. She
decided a documentary, a film letter to William, would convey her story (and theirs) better than
any written letter could.
About the documentary
The intention of the film is twofold: first and foremost, this is a film for William. At the same
time, an adapted version will also be created to reach a wider audience. Julie feels strongly that
this little-discussed topic, and her unique and intimate perspective on motherhood and her own
legacy, should be brought into the light and openly discussed. Aside from interviews with
friends, family and Julie herself, Julie will interview men who lost their own mothers as children
to explore how the experience shaped them, what they knew at the time and what they wish
they had known. This rare perspective is one that, we hope, will be invaluable to William, to
Julie herself as she moves forward with her life and this project, and to a wider audience.
In addition to these interviews, Julie hopes to travel to Ireland with friends from around the
globe to record their messages to William about Julie and to capture images of her in a place
that she loves. She lived there for several months in her twenties and it is a place that has
always held special meaning for her. She plans to stay in the Dingle Peninsula, on the southwest
Atlantic coast of Ireland, a region whose breathtaking landscapes would serve as the perfect
backdrop to take stock of her life and interview her friends.
Julie herself has never made a film but is fortunate to have several close friends with the
necessary experience who are willing to help get the project off the ground and done the way
she wants. These friends are: Chiara Messineo, a London-based documentary producer, as well
as Karina Mariano and Alexandra Grimanis, both Montreal-based independent filmmakers. Close
friends in Spain and Australia will also lend a hand.
The goal of this campaign is to raise $20,000 to cover the costs of travel and accommodations
for the Canadian crew, equipment rental, insurance and post-production. We are asking for the
support of friends and strangers alike to ensure this crucial project gets made.
Please share this link with your network. Julie needs all the support she can get to make this film
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