Last Friday night, the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity held their annual ball. This is a major event in the charity’s calendar and represents a huge opportunity to raise funds for a specific cause within Clatterbridge.

This year’s appeal was to raise funds to buy comfortable reclining chairs to go at the bedside of Clatterbridge patients, particularly those with terminal diagnosis receiving palliative care. These chairs will enable relatives and partners to remain close to their loved ones for much longer than the current available chairs that aren’t necessarily built with comfort and long stays in mind.

The need for these chairs is a very human one. When cancer patients become very seriously ill the impact on their family, and particularly their partner, is profound. For a loving couple, a huge factor during this period, is the realisation that they will not be able to share a bed anymore and with that comes the loss of intimacy and physical closeness that many couples will have been used to for decades of their lives together. This issue of forced separation is one that many of us won’t ever have considered, but when you imagine yourself in that situation it’s easy to understand how painful that must be.

This was the emotional response I experienced a few short weeks ago when we produced the appeal film for Clatterbridge Cancer Charity to be played out at their charity ball last Friday.

We were briefed with making a short film telling the story of Andy Shute and his late wife Julie, who, a fortnight before filming, had tragically lost her long battle with a rare and incurable form of brain cancer. Julie had passed away peacefully at home, in their downstairs dining room which became Julie’s makeshift bedroom and living room where the couple had spent much of their last weeks and months together.

As Julie slept in a hospital bed, albeit at home, she and Andy still faced the same night time dilemma – Julie was too poorly to share a bed. Andy, determined to lie close by his wife’s side, fashioned a makeshift bed of an air mattress balanced across three dining chairs. Not practical or comfortable, but it meant he was there, right next to Julie all night long. He was lying next to her like this, holding her hand, as she slipped away.

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Julie in her hospital bed at home, with Andy’s makeshift bed by her side.

When we first met Andy, not two weeks after Julie’s passing, the grief was still very raw. Julie’s funeral was still a day or so away, but he had been insistent with Clatterbridge that he wanted filming to go ahead in order that the appeal film be ready in time for the charity ball in October.

With Mocha, I’ve worked on some extremely moving and sensitive film subjects, especially with our healthcare and charity clients, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer emotion of sitting down and shooting the interview with Andy. I often say that as filmmakers we’re put in privileged positions and ones of huge trust – never more so than as we started recording Andy’s interview. I was acutely aware of how difficult it must have been for Andy to talk so soon after losing Julie. The responsibility to do justice to this inspirational couple and their story weighed heavy as we began shooting.

I can honestly say that Andy soon dispelled any concerns I might have had. I was blown away by his strength and willingness to talk openly to us about the last few weeks of Julie’s life and their time together. He was articulate, passionate, emotional throughout of course, and at times he was overcome with it all (as was I), but he genuinely made our job extremely easy by his honest and insightful account of his palliative care journey with Julie.

Our time with Andy that day was, I hope, cathartic for him, and absolutely inspiring for us. He shared with us a story that must have been so painful to live through, not least to tell, but we came away feeling like we had captured something so raw and powerful, people could not fail but be affected by it.

On Friday night, Andy’s film was played out at the Clatterbridge Charity Ball and was immediately followed by a 10 minute window of opportunity for guests to donate or to buy outright a £500 reclining chair for Clatterbridge. I felt very emotional the following day when I heard how successful the film had been from Andy himself via Twitter: “@rover600 I’m on such an incredible high. An appeal video shot about Julie premiered at @ClatterbridgeCC ball tonight. It raised £32.5k in 10 mins.”

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The best tweets to wake up to.

It’s natural to want to do something that makes a difference to people’s lives, and following the conversations on Twitter that morning I felt honored and privileged to have been able to help Andy share his and Julie’s amazing story in a way which so many people connected with.

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Andy and Julie on their wedding day.

I was moved to tears when I heard the news of what had been raised – and cried again when I found out that overall the evening had raised £105k for the Clatterbridge Charity.

From all of us at Mocha, thank you to everyone involved on the night and particularly everyone who gave so generously to the worthiest of causes.

Thank you also to Chris Done and her team at The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity for inviting us to work with you and introducing us to some truly amazing people.

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You can watch Julie and Andy’s film here.

If you’d like to donate to The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, please visit Julie’s JustGiving page,

https://www.justgiving.com/Julie-Shute

or text RECL55 £5 (or £10) to 70070

Throughout Julie’s battle with cancer (or Fluff as she affectionately named her tumour), she and Andy published an online blog that followed their journey and has given comfort and solace to many others going through similar terminal illness. Throughout Julie’s illness they both supported Clatterbridge Cancer Charity and Andy is committed to keeping Julie’s legacy alive.

http://julieshute.blogspot.co.uk/

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