A Richmond woman is joining the fight for right-to-die laws in Virginia after watching her wife die from cancer.
Stacey Guillen-Taylor and Bess Taylor made headlines when same-sex marriage was legalized in Virginia. NBC12 helped them arrange a ceremony the day of the landmark ruling, which came with Bess on her deathbed.
“You are my angel from God,” Bess said to Stacey that night. “Each and every day, I thank God for you, your heart, and your compassion.”
Bess was not sure she would live to see her marriage legalized. She was fighting cancer at the time.
“It’s everywhere,” Stacey described of the cancer. “As things progressed, we found out there was more and more and more."
Within months Bess was gone, but the story of her final days has her wife Stacey picking up a new fight: death with dignity. A dignity she says Bess was denied.
“About two weeks before she passed, she looked at me and she said, ‘Honey, I’m suffering and there’s nothing anybody can do about it,’” Stacey cried. “And that’s such a helpless feeling for your spouse, for your best friend, and there was nothing we could do about it.”
Stacey says weeks before Bess passed, Bess saw the story of Brittany Maynard, who ended her life over a battle with terminal brain cancer, and called her lucky.
As Bess struggled to eat, sleep, or even get through the day she dealt with pain so intense, hospice drugs couldn’t make her comfortable.
“She wasn’t afraid to die,” Stacey said. “She was afraid that dying would be painful. And we assured her that it wouldn’t... and not purposely, but we were liars.”
Eventually, Bess had to be taken to the hospital, despite wanting to die at home, because they couldn’t manage her pain from home.
“She was cheated from that as well,” said Stacey. So, that’s another reason why this is such a passion for me now to change things.”
The place where Bess spent most of her final days has been turned into Stacey’s office. It’s a place where Stacey hopes to help others, inspired by her late-wife. There, she fights for death with dignity, a cause she believes would have helped Bess.
“There is no doubt, that that would have been her choice,” said Stacey. “If you’re terminally ill and you’re suffering as much as she suffered, you should have that right to choose when enough is enough.”
She has written up Bess’s story to share with others. She’s speaking at local events, joining the Compassion and Choices cause.
“When you love somebody, quality of life is everything,” said Stacey. "She could have been peaceful, she could have been cognisant. She could have been more aware of who was with her when she passed.”
Stacey says instead of watching Bess suffer, they could have shared their final moments aware of each other, celebrating better moments they shared together
Stacey is calling her effort, “The Bess Project” and herself an advocate for Compassion and Choices.
To reach Stacey, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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