Beloved mother motivates long walk

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Belinda Teh is walking from Melbourne to Perth to promote voluntary assisted dying.
Camera IconBelinda Teh is walking from Melbourne to Perth to promote voluntary assisted dying. Credit: The West Australian, Ian Munro

Perth woman Belinda Teh vividly remembers her mother Mareia’s horrific final hours.

She was suffering from advanced stage-four breast cancer and chemotherapy was only making her die faster.

Ms Teh said the cancer had spread into her mother’s back, growing so big that it fractured the vertebrae on each side of the tumour.

Twice, she requested to have the journey ended by voluntary assisted dying, and was refused. At the end, she was barely recognisable. Those harrowing memories take a daily toll on her daughter.

They have motivated her to walk from Melbourne to Perth, raising awareness and funds to make voluntary assisted dying legal in Australia.

She will reach Albany tomorrow.

Ms Teh wants to share her story, speak to locals and embrace others who know how valuable voluntary assisted dying could be for the terminally ill and their families.

She has been walking since May 28 and is due to finish at Parliament House on Tuesday, August 6. Her Great Southern leg has taken her to Jerramungup, Bremer Bay and Cheyne Beach, with Albany, Denmark, and Walpole next on the list.

She said she wanted everyone to sign her petition so those who were dying could choose to avoid the sad fate she was all too familiar with.

“When I got to the hospice the day my mum died, I didn’t recognise her — her eyes were open but pointing in different directions, she was breathing in a laboured way, she stank, and probably the most confronting thing is that she was twitching,” she said.

“It was the most confronting thing that I have ever seen in my entire life.

“It is those last four hours of my mum’s life that make me get out of bed in the morning.

“I don’t want other West Australians to suffer the way my mum did, if that is the choice they want to make.”

Ms Teh has been walking up to 40km a day, six days a week. At any point in the journey, she is allowed to ask for help from her support vehicle.

“It should be OK to ask for help and it should be OK to accept help,” she said.

“I feel that when people are dying with a terminal illness, they are going through unbearable suffering and when they ask for voluntary assisted dying, they are asking for help.

“I want to send the message that it is OK for someone to ask for help.”

She said the criteria for Victoria’s new voluntary assisted dying legislation matched her mother’s condition.

“The difference it will make is simple — my mum wouldn’t have died like that,” she said.

Ms Teh is scheduled to arrive at Due South about 5.30pm.

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