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I want to die with dignity, not a slow agonising death.

My name is Rhonda Taylor. I celebrated my 54th birthday a week ago, my last. I have breast cancer with brain and bone metastasise. I am dying.

I have been fortunate to outlive my original prognosis by a few months thanks to the incredible medical attention and treatment of dedicated doctors and allied health professionals. 

But I am still dying. There is no cure. 

I have been on the cancer journey now just over three years. 

I have had eight plus operations, chemotherapy. I’ve lost count of how many rounds of radiation I received. I have had my chest wall, axillary, sternum, ribs, spine, pelvis, shoulder, hips, brain radiated. I have tried targeted therapy, hormone therapy, Denosumab injections for bones and steroids.

 

 

I've undergone two mastectomies, axillary clearance, cyber knife surgery for brain tumour, a complete hip replacement, tumours cut out of my thigh bone and puttied up with bone cement, two surgeries to remove cancer from my arm, scarless latissimus dorsi (lat dorsi) flap surgery for first stage breast reconstruction and several other minor operations and biopsies. I’ve endured endless physiotherapy sessions, bone, head, chest scans and blood tests.

I've had access to the best medical care and doctors, and I am still dying.  

The cancer is in my bones, in my skull, my jaw, my neck, my shoulders, my entire spine, my arms, my pelvis, my legs, my toes, my ribs, my pelvis, my brain.

I currently have a crush fracture at T12 resulting in 20 percent loss of skeletal height.

I have another tumour at L5 infiltrating the nerves and threatening paralysis on my right leg from the hip down.

There are several tumours protruding at base of my neck pressing on nerves and causing occasional loss of sensation and nerve pain in my hand and arm.

The pain on bad days is scream-out-loud pain, unbearable and difficult to manage despite access to schedule 8 drugs from palliative care.

There is another tumour pressing on facial nerves. This has caused half my face to become paralysed, akin to a stroke patient. My mouth is droopy, and I have difficulty closing one of my eyes.

I do physio exercises several times a day to help me not drool or slur my speech. Sometimes it doesn't work, other times I use straws to drink so I don't drool liquids on me.

I’ve lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste is going. My hearing on my left side is almost gone. My peripheral vision on left side is becoming narrower.

I have a tumour in the right shoulder which is breaking through the skin and causes me grief on occasion.

There are several brain metastases showing up on scans and the cancer has finally spread suggesting pachymeningeal and leptomeningeal disease.

So, it's game over for me.

I have not detailed every detail, but this should give you an idea of what I'm dealing with.

I am dying and I am not going to get better. I am with palliative care.

The pain on bad days is scream-out-loud pain, unbearable and difficult to manage despite access to schedule 8 drugs from palliative care. 

Fortunately, my cognitive functioning has not diminished so I am well aware of what is happening, and I am able to make decisions about my care.

I know this may not always be the case, so I have an advance health directive which includes do not resuscitate instructions. I would like to die with dignity and not in torturous pain.

I'm not going to win the war with this disease, but it doesn't mean I have given up fighting it.

I make the most of every day I have. Even if I'm in extreme pain I will seek opportunities to enjoy myself before my mobility and other functions give up. 

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I have access to resources and opportunities to make the most of my limited time. I’m incredibly blessed to have a loving family and awesome friends whose support, and love has sustained me through times of hell. 

I am a strong, resilient and resourceful woman more than capable of advocating for myself.

I want to die with dignity, not a slow agonising death. Surely no one can benefit from allowing such torture to occur.

I don't want to die but there is no choice for me. It's going happen without my approval. 

I don't want to commit suicide to ease my suffering.  

I don't want my children, parents and friends traumatised watching me die a slow agonising death.

I certainly don’t want to experience a slow agonising death.

I respect other people have different views and I respect their choice. I would like the respect reciprocated so I get a choice.

By all means ensure safeguards to protect the vulnerable so no one is coerced into a decision but please, please, I beg you to grant dignified options to people like me who want a peaceful death surrounded by loved ones so they can remember me as me.

I have included some photos from my journey so you can see me as a person not just a vote.

I am happy for you to share this information if it will help.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Kind regards,

Rhonda Taylor, Perth, Western Australia. A letter to her local MPs.

Read more about Rhonda's story at 7News.com.au