Too late for me, but it’s time

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Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
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Mesothelioma sufferer Christine Batchelor with granddaughter Trystan Strachan, daughters' Natika Quartermaine-Hunt and Chenoa Quartermaine.
Camera IconMesothelioma sufferer Christine Batchelor with granddaughter Trystan Strachan, daughters' Natika Quartermaine-Hunt and Chenoa Quartermaine. Credit: Laurie Benson/Pic: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

When WA’s voluntary assisted dying Bill passed into law last week, there were tears at State Parliament and cheers from terminal Albany cancer patient Christine Batchelor.

At the Albany Community Hospice, far away from Parliament House, the historic moment had come too late for her. But she is over the moon to know others will have the option she does not.

At 62 years old, Ms Batchelor has been told she will live until February if things go well.

She has just endured one of the hardest weeks of her cancer journey and is “petrified” of what lies ahead of her in her final months.

With 18 months until voluntary euthanasia can be accessed in WA, it will not apply to her.

A mother and foster parent, wildlife carer, manager of the Dumbleyung pool for 18 years and beloved community member for many in the Great Southern, Ms Batchelor has shared her story to help others see the value of VAD.

She was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos, after she noticed she was struggling to breathe during one of her regular swims. Chemotherapy only worked briefly to stunt the growth of the cancer.

Ms Batchelor has been in the Albany Hospice for the past two weeks trying to balance her medication to make her final months as painless as possible.

She said she was constantly in pain, and scared by the thought the weeks ahead would be worse.

“I have three bad days, two good days and then sleep for two days,” she said. “I have just gone through three really bad days which are probably the worst I have had so far as far as pain.

“I don’t want to do this once a week. I was ready for them last night to pull the plug.

“If this goes on any longer I don’t want to be here. I was in tears.

“Every hour I have to buzz the buzzer and I have to wait 20 minutes for it to work, then it lasts for 10 or 20 minutes and hurts again.”

She said she wanted to have the option to go out on her own terms when it got worse.

“I’m not ready to die yet because I have all this life in me, but when I am it would be great to have that choice,” she said.

“We can put our dogs down because they are suffering, because we love our pets. If our family loves us and can see us in absolute agony, why would you not do the same thing?”

Her daughter Natika Quartermaine-Hunt and her granddaughter Trystan Strachan have moved into her home in Bayonet Head to care for her.

Mrs Quartermaine-Hunt said the choice was not a selfish one, as it was hard for anyone to watch a loved one in that state.

“I think a relief is a horrible word to use, but watching mum in the pain she is in, I can only imagine how it would feel,” she said.

“It is clearly getting worse and going to get worse. To be able to say to her that the choice is hers to use that relief, it would put our minds at rest right from the start.”

The family will spend a last Christmas together, then spend time visiting some of Ms Batchelor’s favourite places.

She said she took comfort in knowing that others in her position would have the choice to end their suffering.

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