The cable network The CW has an online documentary series called “My Last Days.” It tells the stories of people living with terminal illness. But it is much more about life than the subjects’ impending deaths.
One episode focuses on two people who’ve lived longer than they were originally supposed to. The first half of the show is about Kendrick Evans. Kendrick has a rare form of sleep apnea that causes him to stop breathing roughly 100 times every night. When the show originally aired in 2016, doctors had told Kendrick that he had three years to live, three years prior to the taping.
Kendrick mentions numerous times throughout the episode that he is terrified to go to sleep. He has spent countless nights avoiding sleep and must sleep with a machine that continually pumps oxygen into his lungs. However, he has not let his terminal illness stop him from pursuing a Gospel music career.
It’s obvious that his love of singing is the most important thing in his life. He voices concern that his disease will eventually render him unable to sing and that idea devastates him. Gospel music and the church are also an integral part of his family’s life. His father is the preacher at their church, and his mother is one of the lead singers in the choir.
Kendrick’s family learned of his condition after his mother’s friend commented on how loud he snores. They eventually went to see a doctor and learned that Kendrick’s airway is smaller than a newborn baby’s. The doctors told him that unless he had surgery that would put a hole in his throat to help him breathe, he would die within three years. But because singing is such an integral part of his existence, he decided against it.
Kendrick’s story focuses much more on his singing than his disease. Eventually, we follow Kendrick into a recording studio. The producers of the show arranged for Grammy-winning Gospel singer Bebe Winans to sing with him. The producers record the song, and we learn that a record label will eventually release the single. It’s a very touching moment. It’s also evident that Kendrick has the support of a very warm, loving circle of family and friends.
Part two of this episode of “My Last Days” is about Jess Oldwyn. She was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer five years prior to the show’s original air date. We meet her the day before her 35th birthday which, according to her, is a birthday she shouldn’t have had. Doctors had originally given her four and a half years to live.
Similar to Kendrick’s story, Jess’ is more about living a fulfilling life than her terminal illness or her eventual death. We learn that, because of her illness, Jess and her husband Dan never had the opportunity to have their dream wedding. So Jess and the producers of the show decide to throw a surprise wedding as a way for her to show her appreciation for Dan’s commitment to and support of her. They had already been legally married for five years.
Throughout the documentary, we gain incredible insight into who Jess is. It is obvious that she has a tremendous heart, and cares deeply for others. For instance, she and her husband describe the moment when they learned that she has a brain tumor, and how she apologized to him.
“I mean that is like the worst news you could ever give somebody,” Jess recalls. “Oh my God I’m about to ruin his life. Because I know that he loves me and that we have dreams.”
It’s this mentality that she continually displays throughout the documentary. Her diagnosis depressed her because it would hurt those around her, not because she feared death. It is extraordinarily evident that she isn’t selfish regarding her illness. She explains that, at first, she said, “No,” when Dan asked her to marry him. But it wasn’t because she didn’t love him. It was because she thought she was going to die soon and didn’t want to cause him the pain of losing his wife.
Jess and Kendrick’s stories are very touching and quite emotional. The positivity they display is contagious. Some people might argue that it’s easy to give up when you have a terminal illness. Their stories offer us a sense of hope and the belief that an illness doesn’t define who a person is.
You can watch this episode of “My Last Days” here.