For immediate release
March 20, 2006
Chad Campbell, NPR: | (202) 513-2304

A Family's Personal Story About Dealing With Terminal Illness - New Half-Hour Documentary Airing On All Things Considered, March 27

Documentary Continues All Things Considered Commitment to Longform Programming


Washington, D.C. -- NPR afternoon newsmagazine All Things Considered will broadcast the audio diary of a 48-year-old Midwestern man in his final year of life and his wife's personal thoughts on how the illness affected their family in a new half-hour documentary on Monday, March 27. The special broadcast is the latest in a series of longform documentaries on All Things Considered that include investigative pieces, a recent town hall meeting and human interest stories.

Produced by Los Angeles based Mary Beth Kirchner, "A Year to Live, A Year to Die" follows the final year in the life of environmental consultant Stewart Selman, who died of a malignant brain tumor in 2004. After his diagnosis, Selman agreed to keep an audio diary of those last months to leave a record for his wife and their two children, ages 8 and 10, as well as for others going through similar crises. He gives voice to the emotions surrounding the discovery of the diagnosis; going into surgery; how his children reacted to his scars; the loss of his memory and language skills, and his thought about what might happen to his family after his death.

Selman's thoughts are interspersed with memories from his wife, Rebecca Peterson. She shares her sadness about not having a "glowing transcendental" final year with Selman but, instead, simply trying to survive as his illness and medications changed his personality. She recalls his increasing anger toward her and their children; his paranoia, loss of speech and movement, and her constant struggles to hold the family together. At one point, the changes in Selman become so extreme that Peterson tells her kids, "Your dad is not thinking right, and I want you to be careful around him... I want you to know this is not him. It's the brain tumor."

"What distinguishes this documentary is its unwavering honesty and candor," said Christopher Turpin, Executive Producer, All Things Considered. "By allowing us inside their family, the Selmans strip away the idealistic notions that often surround death and bring the listener into the difficult and very human process that surrounds it. Mary Beth Kirchner has done a masterful job."

"A Year to Live, A Year to Die" is the latest in a regular series of longform pieces airing on All Things Considered. In February, host Robert Siegel continued his ongoing examination of the residents of Honeysuckle Lane, New Orleans with a town hall meeting. Documentaries have also included investigations into the New Orleans levees and into the death of a detainee in a U.S. prison due to substandard medical care.

All Things Considered is NPR's signature afternoon news magazine and reaches nearly 11 million listeners weekly on 625 NPR Member stations across the country. It also can be heard in more than 100 countries through NPR Worldwide. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit

Funding for "A Year to Live, A Year to Die" was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Mary Beth Kirchner is an independent producer and national programming consultant based in Los Angeles. With an extensive track record in public broadcasting, she has been honored with over fifty national and international awards, including a 1997 duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, and three Gold Medals from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for her documentaries, radio dramas and music series selected as public radio's best cultural programming of the year.

Audio review copies are available via email and mail.