Sitting with a glass of champagne, surrounded by loved ones and at peace – this is how Suzie Jee pictures herself in the last moments of her life.
The former nurse has thought about death more than most people after working with terminally ill patients, dealing with her father taking his own life, and being diagnosed with bone cancer.
She is campaigning for assisted dying to be legalised in certain circumstances, a call backed by the Daily Express Give Us Our Last Rights crusade.
Suzie, 77, said: “At the end of my life I want to be compos mentis enough to say goodbye to my family and my dear friends, and perhaps have a glass of champagne.
“If I had that choice I would feel so much easier about the whole process.”
Suzie cared for patients with terminal cancer while working as a nurse, including some who would ask if they could “just end it”.
She then saw the effects closer to home, when her father George was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and secondary tumours in his spine that caused immense pain.
He was a strong-willed man who worked as a dental surgeon and declared that he would not “live through the last throes of this illness”, she said.
Aged just 60, he went into the woods and took his own life.
Suzie said: “I was very angry that he had to take his own life – and alone, with no support from his family because he didn’t want to implicate us. He died a very lonely death.
“That sowed the seeds for me to get involved with Dignity in Dying.”
It was only years after Suzie became involved with the group that she realised she may one day be left in a similar position to her father.
An abnormal blood test in May 2018 led to her being diagnosed with terminal multiple myeloma. The disease has remained dormant and is being monitored.
She is still fit and active, enjoying walking and yoga, leading weekly relaxation classes at a local hospice and working as a befriender for Macmillan Cancer Support.
But the diagnosis “drove home the need to think about my own death”, Suzie said.
If her condition worsens, she is willing to try whatever treatment is recommended. But Suzie, from Sevenoaks, Kent, knows from her past experiences that this may not be enough to prevent her suffering.
She explained: “I decided that if I was going to be in a lot of pain at the end of my life, which can happen with bone marrow cancer, that I probably wanted, if I could, to take myself off to Switzerland if the law doesn’t change here.
“I feel very strongly that people should have an individual choice to have an assisted death if they require it, as long as they’re mentally competent and have a terminal illness.
“It should be a peaceful death, not a horrible one tortured with pain. Nobody wants to go through that.”
Suzie’s son and her husband of 23 years, Trevor, both support her choice.
She said the couple talk openly about death, adding: “I’ve always felt that death is part of life. We’re born, we live and we die.
“If we talk about dying – and we’re not very good at it in this country – then talking about it makes it a less daunting prospect.”
Suzie has closely followed every twist and turn of the campaign for law change on assisted dying in the UK.
She said that enough MPs have changed their views in recent years that if they were given time to debate the issue in the House of Commons and hold a vote, the tide may turn.
“Let’s hope,” she added. “I’m not holding out a great deal of hope for a change in the law within my lifetime but then, I still don’t know how long I’m going to live. I’m trying to live as long as I can.”
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