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Don Paterson: my story

01 October, 2019

l'm a firm believer in life choices. That we all should have a choice if we want to go at a particular time. lf there's no future, then let us go.

I have an incurable blood-bone cancer (Myeloma) that will result in a protracted, painful, horrible death that palliative care will almost certainly not be able to completely alleviate, thus denying me a comfortable demise.

I was diagnosed with this cancer in 2014. That got me thinking that one day there would be a rough ending and l'd like to avoid that.

The doctors made it perfectly clear at the start that it wasn't curable. There was no forecast for what my path would be. Everyone's different.

l've had a very good run, if you like. l've been off chemotherapy for a while. But at some stage, the disease will start galloping away again. Also, because your blood is lousy, then your body isn't normal. I have good days and bad days. Tiredness and lethargy are two of the issues. My body is getting older anyway.

That is part of the reason assisted dying laws are important to me.

I also have a long-standing arthritic condition that has basically destroyed my spine and has caused me grief all my life and would make living in a nursing home difficult. It makes life difficult anyway. It came with a lot of associated pain and pain is the thing everyone wants to avoid if we can, which is why we take pain killers if we get pain. If, at the end of the day we can take that final 'pain killer' to cure all the pain, that would be wonderful. 

The last time I had cancer treatment it was intravenous chemo. I've had various medications. The first one you have is Thalidomide. Some people can have a stem cell transplant — I was too old. You progress through a list of these things. lf a treatment  doesn't work or stops working or causes too much grief then you go onto another pill and then it becomes the full on chemo. I expect that will start again this year.

I would certainly like to avoid death by myeloma. It's not a pleasant way to go. No cancer is.

I don't want to get to that point of palliative care of lying there like a zombie with all these pain killing drugs fed into you. What's the point of trying to control the pain? You are going to die. Why lie there in a lousy life having pain controlled or not controlled? That's not a good way to exit a good life.

In relation to ageing, the common refrain from ageing people is 'l don't want to go into a nursing home'. I most certainly don't want to be in a nursing home, with my cancer, crook back and other ailments. Give me a choice.

Donald Paterson, February 2019

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