As Jenny's children put it, "Our Mom didn't lose her battle to cancer, she won it in the way she lived her life to the fullest with her cancer." Words can not truly encapsulate Jenny's essence, but in a sentence: Jenny was a sister, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a mother of four incredible children (two sets of twins), a laugher, a lover, a woman who loved smiling and sunsets, a breast cancer survivor, a cancer warrior, and a beautiful woman who lost her life to a rare form of Ovarian Cancer.
In a Huffington Post article, one of Jenny's close friends Robyn Griggs Lawrence wrote, "Jenny doesn't seem terrified of this thing that is so far beyond us, this thing that none of us can now see. This same cancer took her mother, and she knows what lies ahead. We talk about the possibility of alternative treatments, extreme diet changes, energy work. She dismisses none of these, nor the possibility of more chemotherapy, but she refuses to chase down miracle cures with a blind faith that could turn on her. Instead, she's investing her unconquerable energy in living the spectacular life she's always lived -- skiing, canyoneering, rafting, traveling and raising four amazing children -- with a bit more urgency." (click here for the full article). Despite Jenny’s adversity she continued to fill her days with adventure, infectious laughter, excitement, and joy.
There are many layers to this rich film. From concept to completion this film took almost 5 years to create. The film was shot over a period of approximately 2 years, with post production taking approximately another 3 years to complete. Death is complex and it’s something that we don’t talk about enough. In the end, this film speaks honestly to what it’s like to face death. We get to peer into the world of a woman who knew she was going to die; and yet, was still able to live presently and vibrantly. Her vulnerability in letting a documentary crew in and allowing us document what was essentially the last year of her life, was a way for her to tolerate the fear of her own impermanence. In doing so, we as an audience get to see her strength and courage as a mother of four doing her best to spread awareness for a genetic mutation (BRCA) that has impacted and will continue to impact many generations.
There is a certain evolution to creating a documentary. There’s the idea at the beginning, there’s what you actually shoot, and then there’s what you end up editing. In the end, it all comes down to choices-thousands and thousands of little choices. It took me time and patience to make the choices that I felt were right to tell this story.
Jenny believed in the power of this film and its ability to create a movement. This film is meant to inspire you; to open your eyes to the beauty of life and all that surrounds us. Beyond the inspiration there is awareness.
Jenny was positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation. “Certain variations (or mutations) of the BRCA1 gene lead to an increased risk for Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer. Women with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have up to a 80% risk of developing breast cancer by age 90; increased risk of developing ovarian cancer is about 55% for women with BRCA1 mutations and about 25% for women with BRCA2 mutations.” Jenny watched her mother pass away from ovarian cancer. Jenny's children are all susceptible to this genetic mutation as well.
After surviving breast cancer, Jenny tested positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation. She made the difficult decision to have a preventative hysterectomy. Believing that she was in the clear, Jenny moved forward with her life, moved to Colorado and started living her outdoors dream life. However, even after having a preventative hysterectomy, upon feeling ill, a hospital visit confirmed that Jenny had primary peritoneal cancer; a rare form of ovarian cancer. Women who are at risk for ovarian cancer are also at increased risk for peritoneal cancer. This is even more likely if you have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.
The hope of this documentary is to increase BRCA genetic mutation awareness, and to help change the landscape women's cancers. This is a battle her children should not have to face.
1.“Genetics” Breastcancer.org. 2012-09-17.
A NOTE FROM DIRECTOR BLAKE BABBITT
Spike Jonze said, “I like the idea of the documentary as a portrait. There’s not a chronological beginning, middle, and end structure. You build something in the editing room that’s shaped by getting to know the person and digging deeper, unpeling the layers of them as you get to know them.”
While shooting this film, time was simply not on our side, so the decision to get on the road was made often and easily. “Book the plane tickets, I’ll meet you there!” As a crew of three, we were light on our feet- plans for each trip were loosely discussed beforehand, bags were packed, equipment was stowed, and wheels were up. What awaited for us upon landing was not always foreseen. Yet, somehow the answers always seemed to find us on the road, in the journey, and during those unexpected and magical moments that every documentary filmmaker lives for.
For as much preparation and organization one can do when producing a documentary of this nature, it’s the unpredicted that ultimately gives the film its magic. My crew and I liked to call it "Jenny Magic"; those unexpected moments that left those of us behind the cameras reeling, crying, laughing, wincing, and learning. Ultimately, this documentary is a life lesson: a lesson on how to live life with open eyes, open hearts, to live fully in the moment. "Life exists only at this moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it is gone, and yet it exists forever..." -Alan Watts.