For me assisted dying isn’t about dying, it’s about living

“I have a rare and incurable form of cancer called sarcoma and I know I may not have long left. I’m 57 and live in Twickenham, London. I’m a chemistry lecturer and scientist by trade and, until recently, I had the job of my dreams. I had a brilliant life. Then, in December 2015, I was diagnosed with a tumour in my abdomen. In the months that followed I was seriously ill and underwent a major operation. In April, I was told that I had no evidence of the disease and returned to work.

However, my six month scan results in August 2016 were devastating. I had multifocal, inoperable tumours – so aggressive that I was immediately put on palliative care and warned I may only have a few weeks left. I opted for palliative chemotherapy with the understanding that it would not save my life – I knew it may not have any effect and at best may just hold the tumours back. The treatment was very difficult and the side effects horrendous. I spent much of the time in hospital, but it was worth it as I battled on and achieved my goals – to see my son married in October and the birth of my granddaughter in December.

How I’m still here is a miracle, and I am grateful every day. The tumours are currently being held at bay, but once they start growing again I could have just five weeks or less left. I’ve undergone dozens of medical interventions over the past 18 months and I dread any more if I’m near the end. In any case, an operation may not even be possible because of the placement and size of the tumours.

My thoughts are filled with uncertainty and fear that my pain and sickness will not be controllable – but having the option of an assisted death would change all that. I think about dying constantly – what will happen if the tumours on the left or the right grow fastest, how am I going to die, whether I will be in pain. I don’t want my family to see me suffering, I don’t want that to be their last memory of me. I just want to say goodbye to my family and drift off peacefully.

Knowing I had the option of an assisted death when things get too much would allow me to live now, without the constant fear of what might happen at the end.

For me assisted dying isn’t about dying, it’s about living.”

Click for Sandy Briden’s story as published on Dignity in Dying UK’s website and facebook page 

Sandy made the following videos for Dignity in Dying UK in July 2017