On November 1st 2008 my wife, Penelope, died.
Penny was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in November 2005 and received debulking surgery shortly after, then followed six cycles of chemotherapy.
15 months later, in July 2007, she began a further course of chemotherapy to counter the return of the cancer.
However, by October it became increasingly apparent that the cancer had triggered the onset of Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration (PCD) caused by an autoimmune response directed against antigens common to the tumour and nerve cells. As a consequence, the therapy was switched to a combination therapy. Two months later the therapy was deemed ineffective and was halted.
The PCD destroyed her cerebellum. All her mechanisms broke down. She was therefore in a permanent state of psychological and some physical pain - a state worse than death. All she had in front of her was a continuing deterioration until death - which she welcomed; indeed she looked forward to the cancer returning to put her out of her misery. If assisted suicide had been legal in the UK I have no doubt that she would have taken that route.
For her last few months it was necessary for me to employ two live-in nurses in order to continue to care for her at home. She was broken hearted and in a living hell while she waited to die. All she wanted was to be put out of her misery with her family around her. To have to deny her that because of the present structure of the law amounted to cruelty.
It is time to change the inhumane way we treat those who are dying and let them decide when their suffering is worse than death, and allow them this release.
The accounts made in the personal stories section of the Dignity in Dying website reflect the views of the authors. The views of Dignity in Dying may differ. For Dignity in Dying's mission please go to: http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/about.html
Should you want to contact any of the people featured in these pages, or wish to share your own story with us, please contact Jo Cartwright:
020 7479 7737 or 07725 433 025