Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Last week the Guardian featured an article covering Terry Pratchett’s call for legalised Euthanasia  and the BBC published a poll where 73% believe friends or family should legally be allowed to assist in the death of a terminally ill loved one.When I was just 8yrs old my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, I spent a large chunk of my childhood on visits to various oncologists and in chemotherapy or radiotherapy waiting rooms. My parents didn’t try to hide anything, the night mum got her diagnosis they sat down and explained everything in great depth (my thoughts on that could spark a whole other post!). Mum was 39 when she was diagnosed, young, beautiful, vivacious, intelligent, the life and soul of the party. Initially she responded well to treatment and the cancer went away. When I was 15 (and she was 46) mum had reconstructive surgery after the double mastectomy she had had 7yrs previously. The surgery did wonders for her self esteem and confidence, but sadly it triggered the cancer again and it returned first in her spine where it stayed for 4 years before metastasising to her liver and lastly her brain.

My mum was a strong and courageous woman, all the way along she had battled the cancer hard, outliving even the best of prognoses she received, and had always said she wouldn’t die until she saw me graduate university and become a woman myself. She held onto her promise. In June of 1997 I finished my final year at university, by this point mum was a shadow of her former self. The cancer had ravaged her body. She had shrunk from 5ft 7 to almost the same height as me (5ft 1) had lost over 4 stone in weight and hovered at around 6 stone, her skeletal frame looked so frail against her face bloated with steroids and her tummy bloated with ascites. Her mouth was full of abscess’ and ulcers, it hurt her to eat, she didn’t have the strength to walk anymore and so had to rely on a wheelchair if we went out. My mum was such a proud and independent woman I can’t imagine how she felt being pushed around in a wheelchair at the age of just 52. Still she battled on, determined to make my graduation ceremony that December.

In September 1997 she was bed bound, eating only liquid food through a straw, incontinent, wearing large absorbent nappies, she spent much of the day hallucinating and often didn’t recognise my father and I. The cancer had spread to her brain and caused her personality to change, she became very angry and used to shout and swear lots and then dissolve into tears. Each day was the same, more and more suffering, waiting for the inevitable .She used to wake at night screaming in pain, the morphine now only seeming to take the edge off.

Come mid October my prayers had changed, I had spent years praying to God to heal her and now I used to pray in my bed every night for him to end her suffering and take her away. Only he never answered, each day she would wake, in more and more pain. She needed constant care from my father and I. She wanted to die at home and so had refused hospice care, although we were visited regularly by nurses.

On October the 25th as I was holding her hand in a moment of clarity she asked me “to end it”. At first I didn’t understand what she meant, the morphine meant she was rarely lucid, just that morning she had thought my uncle was a giant crow who had come to eat her. She repeated herself “please end it now, use a pillow”. My response shocked me, part of me was shocked and resented her for asking, how could she ask me to do something illegal? Living the rest of my life knowing I had killed my own mother – yet the other part of me wanted to do it, to end her suffering, to help her leave the world in the same way she had helped me to enter 21yrs ago. My fingers tightened on the pillow, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t brave enough and to this day I don’t think I made the right decision, She died in the early hours of October 27th, two days after asking me to commit euthanasia. I feel guilty for the two last hellish days I put her through, the suffering she went through in those two days was inconceivable, but I was scared of the guilt if I *had* done it.

Would I ask my children to do the same thing to me? I don’t think so, I don’t think it is something we should ever ask our own children to do, but I am in support of Euthanasia, nobody should have to go what my mum went through. I agree wholeheartedly with Terry’s comment: “If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice.”


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