When Sydney woman Julie Randall was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and told she did not have long to live just days after celebrating her 50th birthday, she embarked on the fight of her life.
Her remarkable story of survival against the odds is chronicled in her book Patient 71, published this week by Hachette.
Sunstar Entertainment’s Andrew Fraser and Shahen Mekertichian, the executive producers of Lion, have optioned the book and are highly encouraged by the initial responses to the project from Hollywood studios, producers, agents and financiers.
“A story like Julie’s needs to be told,” said Fraser, who engineered the publishing deal with Hachette and has collaborated with 60 Minutes reporter Allison Langdon for a segment which will air on the Nine Network on July 2.
Fraser has a close relationship with Hachette, which published Sunstar client Jessica Watson’s best-selling book True Spirit, the teenager’s account of her solo, around-the-world sailing adventure.
The Sunstar duo optioned their client Saroo Brierley’s memoir which was published by Penguin and became the inspiration for Garth Davis’ Lion
.Back in 2012, Randall suffered a sudden and severe seizure at work and was rushed to hospital where it was discovered she had a malignant brain tumour: Stage 4 metastatic advanced melanoma. Refusing to give up hope, she learned of an experimental drug trial being conducted at the Providence Cancer Centre in Portland, Oregon.
The hospital told her there was only room for 70 patients per year and the numbers were full.
Undeterred, she flew to Portland and became patient 71 after friends helped her and her husband Scott raise $20,000 to cover the medical insurance costs in the U.S. The trial in 2013 was free, involving doses of Opdivo (Nivolumab), an immuno-oncology treatment which uses the body’s natural defences to fight cancer.
Six months later every single cancer cell in her body had gone.
Fraser met Julie four years ago at the charity event to raise funds for her and her sister Michelle, who had also had cancer. He has particular empathy for both women after successfully being treated for a malignant tumour in his neck three year ago.
A huge admirer of Julie, he said, “She never gave up hope. If that had happened to a less-driven person she would be gone.”
Fraser and Mekertichian pitched the project in Hollywood before and after the Oscars and they said it got a lot of traction. They have sent the book to several prospective screenwriters.
Meanwhile they continue to develop a film based on Jessica Watson’s True Spirit, which has Sarah Spillane attached to direct.
Originally published by Don Groves.