CHANGE NEEDED: Linda Gardiner
CHANGE NEEDED: Linda Gardiner Meg Bolton

'She hated us': Daughter joins fight for assisted dying

ONE of the lasting memories Linda Gardiner has of her mother is her refusing to talk because her children wouldn't "kill her".

Linda's mum had pancreatic cancer and suffered in immense pain for weeks in both conscious and unaware states.

"In the moments of clarity she had she was angry," Linda said.

"She hated us for allowing her to live, she hated the system for making her live, she hated God for making her go through it."

 

Linda Gardiner diagnosed with breast cancer was grateful to be part of the Look Good Feel Good program.
Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
FLASHBACK: Linda Gardiner diagnosed with breast cancer was grateful to be part of the Look Good Feel Good program. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka ROK311014alinda1

The Rockhampton woman reflected on the time as one of the hardest in her life as she watched her proud, strong-willed mother diminish right before her eyes.

"Pancreatic cancer is one of the most evil diseases," she said.

"She went from being this incredibly proud, vivacious woman to being incontinent, drooling, demented and angry."

One of the last times Linda's mum spoke to her was when her mother was forced to soil herself because there was no nurses available to assist her - after that she refused to talk.

"She was told they were too busy and to 'just sit there and soil your nappy'," Linda said.

 

Linda Gardiner diagnosed with breast cancer was grateful to be part of the Look Good Feel Good program.
Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Linda Gardiner diagnosed with breast cancer was grateful to be part of the Look Good Feel Good program. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka ROK311014alinda2

 

Linda and her siblings sat beside her mother's bed as she slowly died over many weeks.

"I remember my brother, sister and I running around in a mad dash at two and three in the morning after receiving a call from the hospital saying this is it," she said.

Linda's brother moved to Queensland so he could be there when their mum died. He rushed to the hospital three times when he was told his mother was going to die, but when she actually died he didn't make it.

Her mother's suffering affected the family in ways they will never forget, but Linda said there was one easy way to prevent anyone else from suffering - assisted dying.

She pleaded with committee members at the Rockhampton public hearing of the Queensland Parliamentary inquiry into aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and voluntary assisted dying to change the law.

She attended the inquiry hearing at The Frenchville Sports Club last week to share her story and hear from others.

The cause was close to Linda's heart, not just because of her mother but also because she is too aware she is likely to follow the same fate.

"She would tell us crying that we did not understand the pain she was experiencing, but unfortunately it's a pain that I'm going to learn in the very near future myself," she said.

Linda was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer just a month after her mother died.

While her initial diagnosis was five years ago, at the start of this year she was told the cancer had spread.

The average life expectancy for someone with that severity of cancer is 2.5 years.

"I, like my mother, am a strong person, a Christian, I'm educated, I'm a mother and a grandmother.

"I want the right to choose my life journey," she said.

"The reason I don't want to go through this is not only for me, I don't want my children watching me drool, moan and soil myself."

"I want the right to choose when I die. It's inevitable. It's going to happen. I will be lucky to make 55."

Linda knows the system too well.

She also has a 29-year-old son with a progression neurological condition, which has caused him to be put in a nursing home multiple times.

"He has had six strokes, has a major cognitive impairment, physical impairment and a speech impairment," she said.

Each time he has a stroke he is admitted into Geriatric and Rehabilitation Services in Rockhampton.

"He would be the only person in the facility under 60," he said.

Linda said it was not fair on the nurses or her son, she thinks the department needs to change.

Assisted dying laws and aged care facilities are both considerations in the inquiry into aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and voluntary assisted dying.

The inquiry is led by committee members, MPs Aaron Harper (Thuringowa), Michael Berkman (Maiwar), Barry O'Rourke (Rockhampton), Mark McArdle (Caloundra), Martin Hunt (Nicklin) and Joan Pease (Lytton).

Rockhampton was the 16th Queensland location the committee had spoken at since April 5.

It is travelling across the state to gather views on aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and voluntary assisted dying.