Sheila’s Story

In the summer of 1991 my close friend Sheila Schaunaman Tannenbaum learned she had breast cancer. Knowing I had recently finished a documentary about Nicaragua, she asked me to videotape her battle with breast cancer. For reasons I didn’t quite understand at the time, Sheila was convinced that her story would help others better understand what is was like to deal with cancer.

Like Sheila, I had no idea what I was getting into. I only knew one thing at the time, that if she wanted to tell her story, I would help her do it.

“Sheila’s Story,” it turns out, is the very personal, intimate even, story of one woman’s battle against breast cancer. Sheila talks about many things: her anger at having cancer, her determination to survive, her desire to balance her treatments and find a way to heal with meeting the needs of her family.

Like some people faced with a serious illness, Sheila uses the opportunity to re-examine her life: she talks about her choices and wishes she had done some things differently. She speaks about some very difficult things.

“Sheila’s Story” takes you into both the world of traditional, Western medicine and the world of alternative therapies. I have spoken to many audiences following screenings of “Sheila’s Story”, and many people who have, or have had, cancer have told me how moved they are by Sheila’s rare frankness. The video is currently being used by cancer support groups.

“Sheila’s Story” was an official selection of both the Long Island Film Festival and the Windy City Documentary Film Festival.


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