I am a 65 year old Albuquerque resident who is dying from cancer. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling education. I worked for 26 years for the Department of Energy here in Albuquerque. I have a daughter and two granddaughters who live in Albuquerque.
I strongly believe that physician aid in dying should be available in New Mexico to terminally ill, mentally competent patients like me. This belief comes from my experience caring for my mother who died in 2013. When she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, it had already spread and was untreatable. My mother suffered tremendously in the final months of her life. She was unable to get out of bed, use the toilet, or clean herself. She also experienced continuous, intractable pain even when she was given high doses of pain medication. She was reduced to tears daily. When she died after months of physical and mental agony, I knew I did not want to die like she did.
I was diagnosed with thymic carcinoma, a rare cancer that develops in the thymus gland, in 2010. I had the tumor surgically removed and, after aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, my cancer went into remission. I was overjoyed. Then, two years later, my doctors found a new tumor. My cancer had returned and spread to my bones, liver, and lungs. Once again, I was determined to do everything I could to defeat the cancer. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Despite the treatment, however, my cancer has continued to spread. In July, I was told I had six months to live.
I am continuing to fight the cancer. If I can have a couple more months or even only a couple more days to live, I want them. I want to travel with my daughter and my granddaughters. I am continuing with chemotherapy. At this point, I have good days and bad days. I am no longer able to do many of the things I used to do. My pain is significant. I try to manage the pain and have been working with my doctor to find the right balance of medication so I can remain clear-headed and capable, but also not experience pain. I do not want to spend my final days so drugged that I cannot function or think.
In the event that my suffering becomes unbearable, I would like to have the option of having my doctor prescribe a medication that will help me to achieve a peaceful death at the time and in the manner of my choosing. I was devastated when I heard the news that this practice, physician aid in dying, is no longer available. I very much want this option for my final days. I continue to hold out hope that I will outlive my diagnosis, that I will beat the cancer, and I am still fighting. But if the cancer causes me to suffer more than I can bear, I want to be able to legally achieve a peaceful death.
- Sue Brown