Amanda's Bio Video: Call for submisisons

Just hours before Amanda died, we met with her palliative care doctor and her regular nurse and talked about the weeks to come. The doctor urged Amanda to get busy on memory-making, and leaving things behind for Gordon.

We didn't even get to begin. I had dozens of questions printed out, the camera charged, the microphone at hand, ready to put together an extensive video biography that would show Gordon what his mother looked and sounded like, so he'd never feel like he was losing the memory.

In the absence of her memories, let's use yours and ours. Let's make that video.



I've seen comments on Facebook in the past two weeks from people who've said wonderful things about Amanda. YOU are who I'm talking about here. Hey, even if you didn't like her, you probably have a story. The more material I have to work with, the better this will be.

TOPIC SUGGESTIONS:


  • How did you know Amanda?
  • What did you first think of her?
  • Major stories or memories that changed you?
  • Her character traits and anecdotes that illustrate them
  • If you knew her at the relevant time .... what did she say about Gordon? About Scott? About her family?
  • What do you want her survivors to know that they may one day forget?

TECHNICAL DETAILS:


  • Video format: 1080p preferred, 30 fps. Any video container will do, but .mp4 or .mov will probably be most common. And shoot in landscape orientation, not portrait -- that's horizontal, like a TV set, not vertical like a movie poster.
  • Audio: Avoid wind noise and get as close as the shot allows, so we can hear what you're saying most clearly. Most people don't have external microphones, but if you do, bless you,
  • Lighting: Outside on a cloudy day usually looks great, or position yourself facing a bright window. Bright sunlight can be hard to work with. Plain indoor lighting -- lamps and such -- usually look bad on video.
  • Framing: Keep it steady! I got an adequate iPhone tripod at the dollar store. Use stacked books and some tape if you need to lock a phone down. Don't use the digital zoom -- if you need to get closer, move you or move the camera. 
  • More framing: Close but not too close. A medium shot. From about belly button up, with your eyes about 1/3 to 1/2 way down the frame. You can talk right to the camera. Having the camera at eye level looks the most natural, so you're not looking up or down at the camera.
  • If you're already an experienced shooter and have access to great gear, go for it! Or if you know someone who's great at video and sound, have them help you out.
  • And don't forget .... introduce yourself! I'm lousy with names and remembering who's related to who and how.

LOCATION/B-ROLL:

  • Here's an idea: if your story/memory takes place in a PLACE, take us there! If you can be at the location, that's pretty cool.
  • Extra video from the location can help in editing, for cut-aways or establishing shots. Talking about softball? Take us to the field. University library? Seedy bar? Your backyard?
  • Do you have any video of Amanda? Oh, that would be awesome. I don't have nearly enough.

WHERE TO SHARE:

  • If you have a server or cloud site where you can post the raw video, contact me with the link and I'll download it. Pulling it off YouTube or Facebook is often a headache and can yield lesser quality than getting the original.
  • Dropbox: The following link will let you upload files as big as 2 GB each to me. https://goo.gl/o2AVUI

DEADLINE:

  • By the end of this week. Tomorrow. Geez, I dunno. Try to get it in by the end of summer? Part of Amanda Simpson's legacy is her procrastination. It's part of what made her who she was, but not a part that I can say made things better for her or the rest of us. So, celebrate Amanda's memory by doing this exactly the way she wouldn't have: promptly!
Thank you! I look forward to learning more about Amanda through the process ... and being able to share her story with Gordon for years to come.

Amanda's Celebration of Life: Recap

Thank you to everyone who came out to Amanda's memorial service on Sunday. We set out 50 chairs but quickly needed more. It was muggy and emotions were high, but it was an altogether special day that Amanda would have been proud of. Proud, mortified, proud, sad, embarrassed, proud, giggly, proud, impressed and proud some more. I'm glad we were also able to put it live on Facebook for the benefit of folks from away.

Here's the formal part of the ceremony, now on YouTube:



And for the completists, even more detail:

The program (PDF format).

The music playlist (if I get bored, I'll make it into a YouTube playlist and update the link here):
And, finally, The Slideshow.

This is not likely to be the last I say about all this. I mean, I've had this blog up for the past 11 years -- am I going to stop talking about my life now? Of course not. There's lots more to say.

For now, I say ... to Amanda ... and to every one of you ... THANK YOU.

Announcing the date for Amanda's memorial service



This Sunday, July 24, 2016, at the Civic Gardens complex in London, Ontario, we'll all get to say goodbye to Amanda. If you can't make be here in person, I will attempt to set up an Internet feed so those from away can join in.

Her obituary, which ran this past weekend in London and Halifax, and will run in Kirkland Lake as well:
Amanda Simpson (nee Yateman) died at home in London, Ontario on July 12, 2016 at the age of 37, after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
Amanda is survived by husband Scott and their son Gordon. Daughter of Barbara Derbyshire, step daughter of Wendall Clifford, sister to Amy and Ruth. She is preceded in death by father Gary Yateman.
Amanda was born on October 3, 1978 in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. She graduated from University of Toronto in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science, then from McMaster University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Social Work. She moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia where she worked for the provincial government as a child protection social worker. Amanda married Scott Simpson in 2009 and gave birth to Gordon William Simpson in 2013. The family moved to London in 2014 to be near loved ones as Amanda fought cancer.
Amanda requested cremation, which is being handled by Woodland Cemetery & Crematorium in London. Details on a celebration of her life will be announced soon. Donations to Ovarian Cancer Canada at http://www.ovariancanada.org/ would be appreciated.

For the dozens and dozens of people who've reached out online and in person to extend their condolences -- thank you. For those who wonder if there's something you can do to help -- there is, and I'll share it here and on Facebook soon. Amanda's sudden (though expected) exit from our lives left some unfinished projects, and I have an idea for something that will help Gordon and I through the years. I think you can be part of it.

Amanda has died. Her body is gone, but her legacy remains

I'm sad to report the death of Amanda Simpson. She was 37.

We thought she had more time -- not much more, but more.

Amanda died at home Tuesday evening, just hours after a good meeting with her doctor and nurse to plan out the weeks to come.

She spent much of the day with an old friend. She has been visited by many friends and relatives in the past few weeks.

Thanks to their work, Amanda came close to one of her life's goals: seeing her garden finished. She had two grand legacy projects. Her garden, and her Gordon. I will take good care of both, as per her wishes.

Amanda's body is now with Woodland Cemetery with cremation scheduled for tomorrow. Details on a service have yet to be determined. I will update here and at thesimpsonblog.com.

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been so supportive over the past 3+ years, from the day Gordon was born and the ovarian cancer was first discovered, through long months of treatment, relapses, setbacks and reprieves.

Difficult times are still ahead. I feel the warmth of so many people, and I am grateful to be near so much love from family in London and Stratford. I know people around the country and beyond have been following our story. The story's not over. This chapter is.

Amanda's legacy lives on in Gordon, in the garden, in me, in her family, and more that will unfold in the future.

(I apologize to anyone who feels blindsided by this news -- we've tried to contact as much family as possible before sharing on Facebook. Real human contact is always better than digital, but this medium carries the message in today's world.)

The doctors are out of ideas, so we work toward the end

We're planning for the end and beyond now.

With Amanda swollen up and seeming generally unwell, and new tumours having appeared in her spine and liver in addition to her skull, ribs and pelvis, she returned to the doctors for an update. The medical oncologist who's been leading the chemical fight against her ovarian cancer since we arrived in London two years ago was there, along with her newest doctor from the palliative care team.

There's really nothing safe and effective they can do to stop the advance of the cancer.

It has smartened up to the hormone blockers that she'd been on for a year and a half.

It wouldn't respond to chemotherapy -- they tried at the beginning, only to find out later that it was low-grade cancer, which moves slowly and is largely unaffected by chemo. Now it's going fast and has already been survived chemo before. Besides, with only one kidney, a broken one, the chemo would ruin her.

Surgery isn't an option.

Radiation is there to address the pain, not wipe out the tumours.

Clinical trials would require her to be in better health right now. Her health is not good. Her kidney function has slipped below what it was before the neophrostomy tube was inserted. It's being squeezed, invaded, stressed or otherwise put in danger.

They offered one more thing Amanda could try: a low-dose oral chemotherapy pill. But they didn't make any suggestion that it would do much.

So, that's it. The fight is over. Cancer won. Now it's just a matter of time before it claims her body and her life.

How much time?

"Not weeks, but months .... but a small number of months," is the answer I remember Dr. Welch giving us. In explaining why he could only give an imprecise estimate, the doc explained that when they get into 3-6 month territory, there are too many variables to make any accurate predictions. Minutes later, Amanda demanded to leave the room. Her mom and Wendall took her back to our house. I followed a few minutes later. That was a draining day.

A follow-up talk with the other doctor put the prognosis at closer to two months. 

Given all that's happened in the past few months, I think this was not a huge surprise, but still devastating to hear officially.

Now what? Really, now what? What do we do? What do we have to do and what are we supposed to do?

A few of the supplies Amanda uses to maintain her colostomy.
I'm so pragmatic that I start thinking about the obvious must-do things: get those taxes done, get a will, transfer ownerships, make funeral arrangements. I want her to have life experiences that she's always wanted, where possible. I want to make a biographical video to have record of her life story to reflect on in the years to come and to share with Gordon so he can better know his mom.

And even with all those wants, we still have to go to sleep and get up, and take Gordon to daycare, and eat, and clean, and work on the deck, and get the winter tires off the car, and all the routine things that comprise regular life.

So, with months left, maybe less, and the prospect of her getting sicker and sicker, what do we do?

I'm here for Amanda, as always. Family is devastated but also wanting to help.

Nurses are visiting daily to maintain her wounds and bandages. The palliative care team is on board to help keep her comfortable. Other health pros have arranged delivery of a walker.

I've encouraged Amanda to come up with some 'bucket list' things to do ASAP. She's always wanted to drive a convertible, and Mandi at work is lending us hers this weekend. (Thank you!)

Mary came down last weekend to get all the taxes caught up. (Thank you!)

We're in touch with an estate law expert to tackle the wills and further planning. (Thank you!)

But the rest is day by day.

We still have to talk to Gordon about all this.

More updates to come.

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