Filmed over two years, ‘My Last Summer’ brings together five strangers, each of whom has received a terminal diagnosis.
The group meets regularly at a residential manor house in the Cotswolds to help support one another through the final stages of their life while they contemplate the reality of their own death.
The programme aims to explore fundamental questions around death and dying, including: is it possible to have a good death? How does terminal illness affect loved ones? How do you explain terminal illness to a child? How do you prepare for death?
Channel 4 hopes the thought-provoking series will challenge the subject of death in a responsible way and tackle the difficult issue both openly and honestly.
The five people featured in the series are:
Andy – 43 from Oxford:
Andy has an incurable lung disease caused by aggressive treatment for Leukemia. He was diagnosed with Leukemia in February 2010 after several months of tests. He is constantly out of breath, regularly in hospital owing to infections and tires very easily and his health is deteriorating.
Ben – 57 from Folkestone:
Ben died of lung cancer on 23/10/2013.
Ben was diagnosed in August 2011. Before he became too ill to work Ben was a steward for P&O Ferries – a job he loved. He used to smoke 50 cigarettes a day but cut down on diagnosis. Ben was single.
Jayne – 58 from Cardiff:
Jayne died of breast cancer on 15/ 07/ 2013.
Jayne was diagnosed originally with breast cancer in 2009. It returned in her spine, ribs and skull. Jayne left her husband of 25 years in 2012. She has an 18 year old daughter with severe learning difficulties and a son who she gave up for adoption when she was 17 who she attempts to trace during the series.
Junior – 48 from London:
Junior died from prostate cancer on 11/12/2012.
Junior was diagnosed in January 2012 when the cancer had spread to his bones and lungs. A DJ, Junior has 11 children from 10 different mothers. He married his current partner Sonja in hospital on the day he died.
Lou – 38 from Kent:
Lou has Motor Neuron Disease. She was diagnosed on Christmas Eve 2010 after a year of testing. She has mobility issues and often lacks energy but she has out-lived her original diagnosis of 2.5 years.
Dying Matters and Marie Curie consulted
Dying Matters and Marie Curie Cancer Care were consulted by the makers of the programme. Joe Levenson, Director of Communications for the Dying Matters Coalition, commented: “’My Last Summer’ doesn’t always make for comfortable viewing, but we very much hope that the series will help to break down barriers about talking about dying, death and bereavement.
“Although we weren’t involved in developing the programme’s format, we are pleased we had the opportunity to provide information and advice to the producers prior to filming and to have also had the opportunity to work with Channel 4 to ensure information is available on their website for people who want to talk more openly about dying. Whatever your reaction to the first episode and to the series as a whole, we’d love to hear from you so we can feedback to Channel 4 and to the programme’s producers.”
Kieran Smith, executive producer of the series makers Love Productions, said: “Five brave people who know they are dying allowed us to film with them and explore how they and their families live with the knowledge that they will die soon. I hope their honest testimony will start a conversation amongst us all and ask how do I want my death to be? And how can I influence the effect it will have on me and those close to me?”
My Last Summer continues on Wednesday 11 June at 10pm on Channel 4.