Elizabeth Caplice changed the way we talk about cancer

Cancer Women empowerment

Elizabeth was just 32 when she died from bowel cancer in 2016 after unflinchingly documenting every gritty detail of her treatment on her blog Sky Between Branches.

Before her diagnosis in 2014, the archivist and writer with the post-box-red hair and tattoos had blogged primarily about her success growing vegetables on her Canberra balcony.

But once she began her harrowing and brutal treatment regime, Elizabeth's writing turned to documenting the harsh reality of her disease and the ignominy of her failing body.

She fearlessly recorded the details of life with a stoma, of the blood and poo, the incessant needles, regular nausea and exhaustion, and in the end, her impending death.

t was raw and honest and hundreds of people across the world were along for the ride, sharing her anguish.

"My cancer is as much a part of me as my hand, or my brain," she wrote in 2015 for Meanjin.

"These are the ideas that comfort me, and so I reject the dominant 'battle' narrative around cancer.

Journalist and author Ginger Gorman, herself a cancer survivor, met Elizabeth not long before her death and ultimately, wrote her obituary.

"Elizabeth was the first person I'd ever met who talked about cancer how it is," she says.

"She talked about how disgusting and humiliating it can be and what it feels like as your body fails you. Like me, she shunned the words 'hero' or 'brave' or 'fighting' in reference to cancer. What a relief!"

Elizabeth was realistic, channelling what she called "tough love" about her death, but told Gorman in a 2016 radio interview that she sometimes was afraid of the process of dying, and having people tell her she was going to get better made her feel they weren't listening to her.

"She was open-hearted and charismatic [and] people were drawn to her passion and honesty," Ginger says.

Elizabeth planned her own wake at a Canberra bar where, surrounded by friends, she sipped cocktails named in honour of her doctors as The Smiths played over the speakers and had a Star Trek-themed cake.

"I have lived a life of beauty and richness. And I am sad, and I am a bit angry, that it has to end now, at 32, thinking about the histories and stories I would have built around me were I not to be dying," she wrote in her last blog post.

She died on July 12, 2016. 

Source: ABC


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