Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Memorial speech by Chris Samuel, Polly’s husband


This is the tribute that I, Chris Samuel, read at my wife Polly’s memorial recently.

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Vale Polly Samuel (aka ‘Donna Williams’) 1963-2017


Hello world,

Chris Samuel here, Polly’s husband.

It’s my sad duty to tell you that my beautiful wife, Polly Samuel, died on the night of Saturday 22nd April 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

When grieving the loss of someone who is more than ‘just a partner’


Chris and I have been more than husband and wife, more than lovers, more than family to each other…. we have been incredible best pals. We have spent 17 years in each other’s company and we are still so interested in each other’s lives, thoughts, feelings, learnings, experiences, silliness and bad jokes. Read the rest of this entry »

Dying With Dignity – nothing about us without us


Polly and Chris Samuel Before anyone self righteously takes a stand against right to a dignified death, keep in mind dying with dignity has strong clear guidelines… the person must have no more than 6 mths to live and this must be confirmed by two doctors and the person must be living with unendurable suffering…. then consider this… Read the rest of this entry »

On living, dying and metastatic breast cancer


Consequence by Donna Williams I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in Sept 2016. It had metastasised to my liver with innumerable tumors and no chance at resection. This is expected to most likely be my last year. I have made this video to explain to people how I feel about it all, why I have no bitterness and no regrets. Read the rest of this entry »

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Facing death with positivity


Transition by Donna Williams Facing death… I keep hearing how brave, how positive I am. But is it all about positivity, or is it broader? I’ve been trying to understand what has shaped my perspective to see if it really all came down to positivity… or something else. I wanted to know this because facing death is so hard for many people, so why was this transition relatively ‘easier’ for me? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Language Of Death


Polly and Chris Samuel As a person with metastatic breast cancer facing what is expected to be my last year with a body, I wanted to explore the language surrounding death, dying and end of life… Are we ‘the body’… do we end when we lose conscious awareness of our thoughts, feelings, experiences….Is it possible part of us doesn’t die, somehow lives on…
This is what I explore here, as a Taoist, as a humanist. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cancer, Chemo and Mythbusting


Donna Williams 2016

I am not a doctor, just a layperson with metastatic breast cancer. These are my experiences and views as someone who has had mundane completely treatable cancers, who has had early treatable cancerous changes and non invasive cancer, who has had primary breast cancer and now metastatic breast cancer. I have made this video to help people in the public to hear someone cancer talking openly about how broad cancer actually is, how broad chemo is, and how this impacts treatments and treatment choices including when cancer is metastatic and considered incurable. This is not intended whatsoever as medical advice. Read the rest of this entry »

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CHEMO LOVE by Donna Williams


I was 47 years old in June 2011 when I found a lump in my left breast. It was the size of an almond and I felt certain it was just another cyst like the other two lumps which had already made homes in my breast. Chris was in hospital dealing with a gall bladder catastrophe for three grueling weeks. I was so busy worrying whether and when he’d be home again, snuggling with my man with his drain tubes and urine bottles, his bare body in the hospital gowns I found so frightening, that I didn’t tell him about the lump. Mostly, I couldn’t even really tell me yet. It was once he came home, rehabilitating, the last of his drain tubes out, clear he was going to be safe. Then I said ‘can you feel this?’ The following Monday I was at the GP. Within a week I was having a mammogram. A week later a biopsy. A week later mastectomy. Three weeks later chemo. Three months later Chris and I emerged from the chemo journey and I had my second mastectomy. This is a telling of that 2011 tale. I hope it gives readers hope and belonging. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sometimes shitola is a gift


Donna Williams aged 7 Ya never know how the shitola of the past becomes one’s best asset… when the chemo stops working I’ll be leaving my breathing machine off, taking a muscle relaxant and a few sleeping pills with a sake and night night to the world.

My wild reckless homeless teens gave me all the practice… accidentally overdosing, drinking myself unconscious, playing with death like life was far scarier than death ever could be… and as an adult about to turn 53 I’m so glad I was that teen because it is so hard to actually let oneself leave like that. This is not actually suicide, for I did not come into this world with a failed respiratory drive. It was damaged when I was 2-4 years old and failed further when I was 46 then further again when I was 47-48. So I would merely be letting my failed respiratory drive do its thing, much the same as someone choosing not to take their medication or use their walking stick. I’d just be ensuring my failed respiratory drive does its thing as I leave my machine turned off. Nevertheless its still a full on thing to confront. But a slow death from cancer is the alternative.

Thanks to the gift of a failed respiratory drive from a mother with Munchausen’s By Proxy and the blessing of my chemo and two mastectomy related general anesthetics in 2011 pushing that to a point I only breathe on my own in my sleep without my machine for a few minutes every 30-120 minutes, I found myself blessed to HAVE a choice about the length of my ending.

I just wish every other person at their end had a humane choice, the kind we give our fur babies. A choice is not obligatory, people can do the long drawn out ending if they wish. But it is my wish that as a society through talking openly about death and the end processes in incurable slow deaths, that we can look at the issues with sanity and humanity and not the knee jerk me-me defensiveness of those in power with religious ‘beliefs’ who are not in this position and do not, and should not, represent all without their beliefs.

Polly Samuel (aka ‘Donna Williams’)
Author, artist, consultant and presenter.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.

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