Vicki Walsh has lived with terminal illness for eight years, and the thought of making euthanasia legal alarms her. Source: Murray Wilson / Stuff
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09 April, 2019
By Janine RankinSenior Reporter Manawatu Standard
Palmerston North woman Vicki Walsh has well and truly out-lived her life insurance payout.
Diagnosed with the brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme nearly eight years ago, the prognosis was that she would be dead in 12 to 14 months.
She nearly was.
Not from the cancer, but by her own hand.
She had the pills laid out on the kitchen bench, ready to end the suffering, but changed her mind over a cup of tea.
Now understanding it was the depression that is a natural bedfellow for terminal illness that made her ever think it was a good idea to hasten her death, she is making a last-ditch plea to stop the End of Life Choice Bill progressing.
On Tuesday, the day Parliament's Justice Committee is due to report back ahead of a likely vote on May 1, the DefendNZ lobby group's documentary about her remarkable survival will be released.
Called Terminal but not dead yet, Walsh's story explains her fear that the change of law would make vulnerable ill and disabled people feel worthless, selfish for continuing to be "a burden" and pressured to ask someone to end their lives.
Walsh would be a candidate for the euthanasia choice under the bill as it stands, as her condition continues to be terminal.
Yet she is very much living life.
She gets around the house. She can put the rubbish out. She bakes. She plays with her grandchildren. She has taught herself to knit again. She is even talking about going back to work.
However, after surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and several strokes, the cancer is not in remission.
She is realistic. She knows she is going to die. She's made practical arrangements. She went to the undertaker and chose her casket.
She called the insurance company about claiming on her life cover.
"The guy asked me whether I had claimed on the policy before. I told him no, I haven't died before. He was so embarrassed, but a black sense of humour is one of the things that keeps me going."
She still has dark days, and those are the days when the thought of seeing a doctor who had the the power to help her end it all make her shudder.
She would have missed out on three more grandchildren, her son's 21st and time with her husband Dave.
"It scares me what would happen if I didn't have Dave, especially on those days I can't get out of bed, or can't lift my legs into bed.
"I used to think when I was well that I would not want to live like that. Now, I realise you can adapt to a new life."
Walsh said euthanasia was not the solution to suffering. It was support, symptom control, good palliative care and feeling valued that enabled people to continue living with dignity.
Walsh's story is available here or below.
Watch Vicki’s documentary in widescreen and read her complete story here.