Last year a powerful and uplifting documentary was filmed in Rome, Los Angeles, North Carolina and Aspen. “What Love Ss: Pathfinders” chronicles the touching role Pathfinders, a local nonprofit, has played in the lives of cancer victims and the people close to them.

Touching the lives of many, and following Aspen’s own Kristin MacDermott and Tina Staley (Pathfinders’ founders), this film is the highly anticipated work from award-winning documentary filmmaker Theodor Bogosian. Due to the connection to the valley, there will be a special free sneak peak tonight, Friday, Feb. 12, at 5:30 at the Wheeler Opera House.

Pathfinders is an organization whose main objective is to alleviate the pain experienced by those who have been touched by cancer. Their mission is to be “a comprehensive, psychosocial support program for cancer patients with a primary emphasis on quality of life. By addressing the social, emotional and spiritual issues that accompany a cancer diagnosis, the program fosters healing and personal growth for patients and their families.”

Pathfinders created, endorses and teaches the “Seven Pillars of Personal Recovery.” It is a program designed to empower cancer patients and their families to take their lives back. It encourages families to bring back balance to the lives of those affected by cancer so that they can live in the present, and with hope for tomorrow.

Pathfinders founder Staley regularly asks patients to write a gratitude journal. She says on the Pathfinders Web site, “I ask my patients to identify three things they are grateful for at the end of each day … The gratitude journal helps them find joy even during very difficult circumstances. It teaches them that even in the midst of the desert, there is a rose.”

The organization understands that while it cannot make cancer go away, with the Seven Pillars of Personal Recovery they can help patients build hope and find happiness and contentment even during the heartbreaking uncertainty of cancer treatment.

“What Love Is: Pathfinders” documents the growth of MacDermott and Staley’s breakthrough Pathfinders program. The film recounts the program’s beginnings at Aspen Valley Hospital and records a two-year study done with 55 women who have advanced (metastatic) breast cancer at Duke Medical Center.

This study tested the Pathfinder method to find out how well cancer patients can live, and die. It was set up as though the researchers were evaluating a drug, the only difference being that the Seven Pillars Model was used instead of prescribing drugs to the patients.

The study found that the Seven Pillars Method could limit distress, despair, helplessness and hopelessness, even at the end of a patient’s life. The findings have been published in journals, receiving scientific praise and notoriety.

MacDermott, who created the Seven Pillars of Personal Recovery with Staley, says, “This movie should show that we can have the perfect combination between technology and humanity … that is what has to carry forward.” Pathfinders’ founders believe strongly that they have created a method that will do away with standard care and will revolutionize end-of-life care.

After the movie there will be a short panel discussion led by Pathfinders Executive Director Elizabeth Means, who will be joined by filmmaker Theodor Bogosian, Director of the Duke Cancer Research Program Dr. Amy Abernethy, and Pathfinders founders Tina Staley and Kristin MacDermott.

Bogosian, who was just putting the finishing touches on the documentary earlier this week, has a personal connection with the material in this film. He has had family members with cancer and he has watched people who were terminally ill decline and then die.


“It is a two-toned film,” he said. “One tone is science; the other tone is spirit. The film tries to connect those two things and also improve the quality of the connection, just as Pathfinders does.”

After the movie, confidential comment cards will be handed out to provide the filmmaker with local input. After reading the comments, there will be a final edit before “What Love Is: Pathfinders” premiers this April at the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, N. C.

“What Love Is: Pathfinders”

Presented by Pathfinders

Friday, Feb. 12, 5:30 p.m.

At the Wheeler Opera House