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Anne Fraser's mother

I couldn't hold my mother in my arms as she died.

She was in such agony I could not touch her. It's heartbreaking to remember her suffering. Pain control including the best palliative care does not work for everyone. It certainly did not for my mother. Mum's cancer had spread throughout her body, organs and head but it was the cancer in her bones which was the most agonising and uncontrolled.

When she was beyond talking, she would lock eyes with my sister and mouth "Please help me".

The final helpless indignity of so many. What a way to die for the most intelligent, kind and good person I have ever known.

Months earlier, Mum lay back on her pillow in the hospital and held hands with my sister and Dad and joked she was sorry she didn't have another hand for me so I shared a hand with my sister. She was about to be given a pill which happened to be blue. She said she was ready, let's do it, and closed her eyes with a peaceful happy smile on her face. I was a bit puzzled as this seemed unusual behaviour. Then I noticed my sister's face, she was stricken as she realised what Mum was thinking about the blue pill.

Mum's father had a horrible death from brain cancer. My grandmother had nursed him at home so Mum had been exposed to the full suffering of his illness. The memories gave her nightmares and kept her awake at night for ever afterwards. To help give her peace of mind, she and my Dad made a pact. If either of them was suffering in a terminal illness, the other would give them "a little blue pill" to end their life and avoid the last nightmarish phase of a painful death. I have not the words to describe having to explain to Mum that this was not THE little blue pill. How much suffering and crushing indignity would have been avoided if Mum could have got her wish then and passed away peacefully, contentedly holding hands with the people who loved her. Now I have cancer.

I NEED to know I won't die like my mother and grandfather. I have every hope the treatment will work, but if it doesn't I am not afraid of death, but I am terrified of suffering an unspeakable death like my Mum's. Please do all you can to ensure that West Australians have the choice to die with dignity at a time of their choosing so people like me can sleep at night.

Anne Fraser, February 2019

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