Cristina opens with an arresting scene: A woman, getting her hair buzzed, offers some beauty advice. Wait to shave your head until after the chemo starts, she says to the camera. Wait until your hair starts to fall out.
Moments later, we see her again—this time, she’s casually lounging on the floor as she blow-dries a cute blond bob. “I have hair!” she exclaims over the machine’s roar. “It’s a good feeling!”
These are the scenes that will stick with you long after Cristina is over. The documentary, available on Netflix, follows script supervisor Cristina as she navigates her second diagnosis with breast cancer, which had metastasized into her liver. It was directed by filmmaker Michele Ohayon—a friend of Cristina’s, which gives the movie a deeply moving intimacy.
“When my friend Cristina was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she asked me to film her,” Ohayon says in a statement on the movie’s site. “Although she was a script supervisor and knew film, I reminded her what it meant to have a camera in her face and a constant presence through this difficult journey. But she was adamant. Cristina wanted to send a message to the world, in her own words: Live now. I told her I would do it if she promised me a happy ending.”
Unfortunately, there was not a happy ending. The documentary is short, under 40 minutes, because Ohayon had only 20 minutes of footage. When Cristina was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she was given two to five years to live. She died five months later.
“As harrowing as the experience was, and without a happy ending, I am committed to living my life to its fullest each and every moment,” Ohayon said. “Cristina was the brave soul and beautiful spirit that reminded me of that through her love and appreciation for life.”
And while devastating, there is so much beauty in Cristina’s journey. The film captures a true portrait of life with metastatic breast cancer, good and bad. But in between the scenes of seemingly endless hospital visits are moments of pure joy—Cristina sitting in the sun with her husband, Bruce, or smiling as she describes what it’s like to be wholly loved.
The message of the film is clear, and one that everyone should hear: Life is a gift. “You only have right now,” Cristina says toward the end of the film. “That’s all you have…. Wake up!”
Anna Moeslein is the senior entertainment editor at Glamour.
Originally Appeared on Glamour