“You’re not the person you were before and you feel more vulnerable. And more open to people’s judgement. And pity. I don’t want pity and I don’t want judgement.”
On Monday night, Four Corners brings you the powerful story of one of its own, veteran reporter Liz Jackson, as she comes to terms with a devastating illness.
“This is a very hard story for me to tell because it involves exposing my current condition to a public audience”
For nearly 20 years, Liz Jackson reported from the frontlines of war and politics for Four Corners, winning nine Walkley awards for excellence in journalism, including the Gold Walkley in 2006 as well as three Logie Awards.
But after she left the program in 2013, her health collapsed. She was losing her physical strength and her ability to write, and was suffering from crippling panic attacks.
“I’d looked forward to getting fit and healthy and seeing more of my friends. But it proved to be the opposite.”
Liz was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“I got a second opinion but I wasn’t happy. It was Parkinson’s again, so I got a third opinion. I remember the doctor said to me ‘I just want to tell you this Liz. I’m 99.9% sure you have Parkinson’s.’ And that seemed a very definitive answer, so that was that.”
Despite a barrage of medication, Liz continued to deteriorate.
“We've been seeing all these highly qualified people for a very long time. We've been sort of doing exactly what they've suggested in terms of treatment and nothing is working.” Martin Butler, Liz’s partner
So with unflinching honesty, Liz Jackson has turned the camera on herself.
“What I’ve relied on throughout my career and throughout my life, is my capacity to think straight. And it’s the fear of losing my sense of intelligence and responsiveness and losing a sense of who you are.”
She brings her fierce intellect and penetrating questioning to try and understand her illness – interrogating her doctors and comparing experiences with fellow patients.
“I fear I’ll lose control. I hate that.”
This moving film is a collaboration between Liz, her partner Martin Butler and his colleague Bentley Dean, both highly acclaimed film makers.
“These are really devastatingly traumatic times for her, but she’s got the courage, the strength to show it like it is, you’ve got to tell it like it is.” Martin Butler
This 55-minute special program, made in partnership with the ABC, Contact Films, Screen Australia and Film Victoria will also be available on ABC iview along with a selection of Liz Jackson’s most memorable films.
A Sense of Self, reported by Liz Jackson for Contact Films, presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 21st November at 8.30pm on ABC & iview. It is replayed on Tuesday 22nd November at 10.00am and Wednesday 23rd at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm AEDT, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.