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Making a difference: Documentary aims to ‘give a voice to those on a cancer journey’

The documentary “Those on the Front Lines of Cancer” premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 19, on New Mexico PBS. (Courtesy of PBS)

The stories Keith Famie comes across while making films are both heartbreaking and inspirational.

For two years, Famie and his crew worked on the film “Those on the Front Lines of Cancer.”

The film will debut on PBS stations nationally Sunday, July 19, and will be shown at 10 p.m. on New Mexico PBS.

“The film helps us understand where we’re at now and how far we’ve come,” Famie says. “Understanding the research is key, and I wanted to give a voice to those that are on a cancer journey.”

The documentary features heartfelt stories and several well-known medical professionals.

Working in the trenches with these professionals, Famie explores the latest medical advances as well as body, mind, and spirit approaches and how lifestyle changes and disciplines can affect what may otherwise be a genetic roll of the dice.

“It’s always fascinating for me when I work on these films,” Famie says. “When I film with different medical professionals, one part of the country hasn’t heard of an idea. It’s usually bridged by the patients advocating for themselves and figuring out the best possible treatment. The patients have to push the envelope on this.”

Director Keith Famie

Famie is grateful to the Heart to Heart Hospice Foundation, the presenting sponsor for the national launch of the film on PBS.

” ‘Cancer’ – this word evokes fear into anyone who hears a doctor use it in the context of a checkup. I truly wanted to explore where we are with treatments and research as well as better understand how lifestyle can impact our long-term health to possibly avoid a cancer diagnosis,” he says. “Most importantly, I wanted to give a voice to those on a cancer journey – enabling these unsung heroes of the film to teach us about strength, courage, faith, and the drive to overcome this devastating disease.”

Michigan media personality JoAnne Purtan is the host of the two-hour documentary.

“Cancer affects all of us in one way or another. I watched both my mom and mother-in-law battle ovarian cancer for years, and currently have friends facing their own cancer journey,” Purtan says. “This film provides hope … hope for new treatments on the horizon and hope for alleviating the financial toxicity that often accompanies a diagnosis. What an honor it is to work with Keith Famie and to be a part of such an important project.”

Famie is looking forward to the documentary getting a national rollout because it’s an issue that people need to talk about.

“These films are a real journey of love,” he says. “They really are done with the sense that people can react. Getting messages of hope really fuels my drive. Boy, if I can dig deep and serve up something that makes a difference, I’m going to try each time.”

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