Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Wendy Mitchell dead: Author and dementia campaigner announces own death with powerful open letter

Best-selling writer says ‘what a life I’ve had playing games with this adversary of mine’ in final message

Holly Evans,Andy Gregory
Friday 23 February 2024 01:23 GMT
Comments
Mitchell writes movingly about her last cup of tea and why she decided to stop eating and drinking
Mitchell writes movingly about her last cup of tea and why she decided to stop eating and drinking (Shutterstock)

Author Wendy Mitchell has died after living with dementia for years and left a final message announcing her own death.

Mitchell, 68, became a best-selling writer after being diagnosed with early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s in July 2014, while working as a rota manager in the NHS.

In a posthumous post shared online, the author revealed how she had taken the decision to refuse to eat or drink any more.

She wrote: “If you’re reading this, it means this has probably been posted by my daughters as I’ve sadly died.”

“In the end I died simply by deciding not to eat or drink any more,” Mitchell wrote. “The last cuppa tea … my final hug in a mug, the hardest thing to let go of, much harder than the food I never craved … This wasn’t decided on a whim of self-pity as you’ll discover by reading on.

“Dementia is a cruel disease that plays tricks on your very existence. I’ve always been a glass half full person, trying to turn the negatives of life around and creating positives, because that’s how I cope. Well I suppose dementia was the ultimate challenge.

“Yes, dementia is a bummer, but oh what a life I’ve had playing games with this adversary of mine to try and stay one step ahead.”

Mitchell lived in Walkington, East Yorkshire, and authored the acclaimed 2018 memoir Somebody I Used To Know and, four years later, What I Wish I Knew About Dementia. Her third book, One Last Thing: Living With The End In Mind, is due to be published in paperback next week.

She added: “Sadly assisted dying isn’t an option in this country. With something that will affect 100 per cent of the population, regardless of wealth, intelligence or ethnicity, it’s amazing how such little value is placed on the act of dying.

“For those that have read my book, One Last Thing, you will understand why I feel so strongly about assisted dying. The only legal choice we shouldn’t have in life is when to be born; for everything else, we, as humans, should have a choice; a choice of how we live and a choice of how we die.”

Mitchell wrote that she had not wanted her dementia to “take me into the later stages” in which she would be reliant on others for her daily needs, saying: “The Wendy that was didn’t want to be the Wendy dementia will dictate for me.”

She added: “I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t forced or cajoled in any way whatsoever, it was solely down to my choice. I was ready. You may or may not agree with what I’ve done, how and when I’ve chosen to leave this world, but the decision was totally mine.”

Anna Wharton, who was a ghostwriter on Mitchell’s bestselling memoir, described the letter as “the last powerful words from my friend Wendy Mitchell”.

“As desperately sad as I am to lose her, I’m so proud of all that she achieved and for choosing the death she wanted. Her greatest fear was dementia stealing her as a mum. It didn’t. Wendy beat dementia,” said Ms Wharton.

Charities including Alzheimer Scotland and the Lewy Body Society were among those to pay tribute to the “fearless” campaigner, while former Guardian journalist David Brindle hailed her for making “such a huge contribution to the greater understanding and social acceptance of dementia”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in