My beautiful mother was a wonderful woman who looked after her family, friends and community to the best of her ability. She was immensely generous to other people (in many cases anonymously) whilst being incredibly frugal with herself. She ate healthily, exercised and maintained her intellect via voracious reading. Her mother lived to 95 and various aunts and others into their 90’s, one to 99 & another to 103 years old.
It seemed entirely unbelievable when she was diagnosed with colon cancer, until we learnt of a genetic pre-disposition to this cancer in her father’s family. However, it seemed at that time, all was not lost and that she could be operated on and with careful nursing she would be up and on her way.
The evening before the operation she had a scan which alas revealed the extent of the cancer and that it was also in her lungs and elsewhere. To operate was deemed useless by the surgeon. She went ahead and endured three sessions of chemotherapy but eventually decided that she did not have the strength to continue with the treatment. This coming from someone who had refused pain management from the dentist all her life except when the dentist insisted it would be required for the removal of her wisdom teeth; a telling moment.
We continued nursing her at home with my father aged 79 (whom I also cared for) helping me lift my mother when he could. Further deterioration in her health saw her back in hospital where they advised that whatever was wrong inside would require major surgery and that my mother was unlikely to survive the operation.
The wonderful staff and oncologist said to me my mother would need to be placed in a hospice. I said no, she will come home with us because that was what she told me, she wished to do when I asked her if she would prefer this to going to a hospice.
I wanted to give her a good death at home visited by her many friends and relatives and in familiar and pleasant surroundings.
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At Christmas I had included a paragraph at the end of the yearly letter suggesting that mum had been operated on and that perhaps people might like to visit her while she was still well.
Time went on and she continued to deteriorate – she never complained except for just once she said to me ‘No human being should be expected to go through this pain’.
She died six months after she was diagnosed with the cancer. She was in incredible pain for at least the last two months despite all the morphine, and other pain management. She was in agony at the end.
She was a very organised person, she told me once she didn’t need an alarm clock to get up in the morning, she could tell from the shaft of light from behind the blind, exactly what the time was. On the morning she died she waited until the shadow was in place and then died on her birthday morning. Like Buddha she was born and died on the same day.
My father, who slept in his bed alongside hers, came down the hallway on his walking frame and told me she had gone. As I bathed her one last time and arranged a beautiful white brocade bedspread over her, I sang out loud the traditional song ‘Oh happy day’. I just couldn’t help rejoicing in the fact that she was no longer in any pain.
I would have loved for her not have had to endure those last months of excruciating pain by being able to arrange for VAD herself. I am sure she would have chosen that option in the later stage of her dying.
Unfortunately such an option was not available in June 1997 in Victoria so she could not.