Coming to terms with deathComing to terms with deathThe challengeThe visitPainMemoriesThe meetingBMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7174.1737 (Published 19 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1737
Coming to terms with death
- Ian Roddie, retired physiologist
On midsummer day 1974, my wife, Betty Roddie, died aged 39 after a long fight against adenocarcinoma of the breast. Her poems give a unique insight into how she came to terms with personal disaster. They illustrate with poignancy the journey she travelled from initial defiance through acquiescence to final acceptance.
“Charade” was a cri de coeur against the make-believe that too often isolates people with cancer from their friends and loved ones. It was written after a visit to a much loved uncle dying of adenocarcinoma of the lung. The second, “The Challenge,” expresses her defiance when her own diagnosis of cancer was finally confirmed. The third, “The Visit,” describes her thoughts as the disease progressed, and visits to hospital became more frequent. The fifth, “Memories,” was written in hospital after successive admissions for bilateral total mastectomy, ovariectomy, adrenalectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. It shows how she coped …