Sarah Collins arrived at the clinic for a routine mammogram because it was one of a variety of tests she would have to undergo in order to become a kidney donor for her daughter Maddie. Maddie has a rare condition called FSGS. It has no known cause, isn't genetic and is completely incurable. It is just before Christmas 2011 and at this time Maddie is 8 and Sarah is 39.
What no-one expected was to find that in the middle of fighting for their daughters life, Sarah and her husband would find themselves, fighting for hers as well. They had found a 2cm tumour in Sarah's left breast and discovered that the tissue was full of pre-cancerous cells as well. A major operation, several round of chemotherapy would have to be interwoven with dialysis treatments and a kidney transplant.
When I spoke to Sarah recently, I quickly realised this was a woman who didn't do things by halves, so when her film-making friends John Spence and Bridgett Latimer approached Sarah about filming her experiences, she jumped in head first. As they discussed the outline and approach they would take, they all agreed "It had to be real, it had to be honest. Nothing held back." And that's exactly what they did.
There is a total of 53 videos that span the last 2 years and a time-lapse which shows the changes to Sarah's body over the first 10 months. It is honest and it is funny, but most of all it's a raw collection of works which span from being out on the motorbike to feel the wind in her hair (yes, she was bald) to opening up about quitting and just wanting to be left to die. Nothing is held back. And although Sarah herself describes the experience of making the videos as therapeutic to her, the gift she has given out to humanity by sharing them means they are therapeutic to an unmeasurable number of young women who find themselves facing the same challenges of cancer treatment.
For a taste of what Sarah has put together with her team, watch her Air New Zealand style safety video, the latest of her video uploads. (If you haven't seen Air NZ safety video, I would recommend watching it here first).
To see the rest of Sarah's video journal click HERE.