My cancer plan: poison in the fridge

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jo beechamSource: The Guardian – Jo Beecham, as told to Paula Cocozza. Photograph: Jackie Beecham Kyram/The Guardian.

Jo Beecham was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2011. She keeps a stock of barbiturates ready so that she can choose when to die.

“When I was first diagnosed, I was focused on cure. I took two clinical trials, plus two rounds of chemotherapy. However, when the cancer came back a year after my initial treatment, I was told I couldn’t be cured. I decided to take control, and procured a barbiturate drug from Mexico that is sitting in my fridge. Every now and then I take it out and have a look: it gives me great comfort.

When the time comes, I will draw the line for myself. I want to be quite present, propped up in bed, having a conversation with people. I want someone to hold my hand.

There are five friends who want to be there. Over time people have opted in, opted out, and I’m just getting consistency in terms of people committing. Their being present in a room is not considered aiding and abetting, but I will need to be well enough to get the drug from the fridge, go back up the stairs and have the presence of mind to measure it out. Well enough – and brave enough.

I’ve drawn the line.

I’m assuming that because the cancer is in my liver, I will see my body filling up with fluid. My ankles will swell, my face will go yellow. That’s my line. But I can’t know the order of events. I have had days where I’ve thought: “Right, today’s the day, I can’t bloody stand it.” But it’s not really the day. Maybe I will pass the line and miss it. Maybe I have to bring the line closer.

It would be nicer to be iller and to submit to the help of people, but I can’t put anyone in that position. I have to be emotionally and physically well enough to follow through – to take a very, very difficult decision, but one I passionately believe I should have a choice over. I hope I live to see the passage of Lord Falconer’s bill to legalise assisted dying, but I doubt I will. I have very little time left.

I don’t break the law – I’m not that sort of person. On top of everything else, you have to deal with your anxiety about doing it. Yet I did give about $600 to a stranger in Mexico for a drug that may or may not be what it says it is. I was terrified it wouldn’t arrive or would be blocked at customs. I’ve had it in the fridge for over a year now.

It’s hard, but I have to think about taking the drug. I’ve been assured by people on an online forum that if you take an anti-sickness pill, followed by the drug and then a bit of alcohol or chocolate – because the drug is very bitter – you will fall asleep and die. It will be peaceful. And that’s all I want. I don’t want to end up incapacitated, taken to the commode, turned in my bed, out of my mind, unrecognisable to myself…” Read more.

The story originally appeared in The Guardian in relation to the bill to legalise assisted dying currently being considered by the House of Lords. Click here for background on the bill, supported by Desmond Tutu and others.


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ONA Editor

The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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