February 15, 1920 - October 13, 1945
Elizabeth Anne Shaw was born in Neelin, Manitoba on February 15, 1920. She was the daughter of William John Shaw and his wife, Elizabeth Mary Shaw, both originally from Britain. Mr. Shaw was a WWI veteran who had been gassed during the conflict, with residual symptoms. The Anglican family were farmers first in Manitoba then in the Wainwright, Alberta, area. "Betty" as Elizabeth Anne was known, had one brother, William F. Shaw. He had joined up in service, but due to thyroid issues, was discharged and worked at the Lincoln Hotel in Edmonton. She also had two sisters, Florence and Kathleen.
Betty had an incomplete Grade 9 education from Lake Alice, Alberta, 1938. Her earlier education was had at Lake Lorne, Manitoba until 1936.
She had the measles, chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough before she was 10-12 years old, and pleurisy at 19, plus intermittant amenorroaea (missed periods). There was a birth mark (irregular reddish purple port-wine like stain) on her forehead near the hairline. She bruised easily, as did members of her family, more so in her lower limbs. Betty required glasses to read. She stood 66 " tall, and weighed 130 pounds. She had grey eyes and was noted as a brunette with dark brown hair.
Prior to enlistment, Betty worked in Wainwright as a waitress for the CNR from 1941 to 1942 and before that, doing housework 2-3 months at a time between 1938 and 1941. She did not smoke and drank very occasionally. She liked sports and took an active interest in them, but had few personal friends. Betty attested on August 11, 1942. At that time, she said, "I would very much like to work in a store as clerk." In one reference letter: "Miss Betty Shaw of Wainwright has asked me for a character reference to accompany her application to the CWAAF. I do so without any hesitation. Miss Shaw has been known to me for the last 3 years, as a regular member of my congregation, when I was stationed at Wainwright, 8 months ago. I believerher to be a conscientious, steady, honest and respectable living girl. Added to this, I have no doubt as to her loyalty to her country. Believe me, Yours truly, Reverend Rollo M. Boas".
Betty Shaw was taken on as a Standard Messwoman, General Duties. She was at No. 7 B&G School sometime in 1943 as well.
On June 1, 1945, LAW Shaw stated: "I reported ill because my menstrual periods had not occurred since 27 Jan 1945 and because I noticed a large swelling in the left side of my abdomen and because I had noticed increasing weakness and fatigue for six to nine months. I do not know exactly when my illness began but I recall noticing a mass in my abdomen around the first of January 1945 while taking a bath. I do not know how long it has been present. I do not know what caused this swelling." She was not going to report to the Medical Officer, but on the urging of a friend, she did so. Probable Diagnosis: Abdominal tumour, not yet determined. This was at No. 7 B&G School. She was transferred to Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg.
"Patient was in her usual healthy state until January 1945. At this time while taking a bath, she noted a hard smooth swelling occupying most of the ULQ of her abdomen. She paid little attention to this. She menstruated last 27.1.45 and then had a period of amenorrhoea lasting until 4.6.45 for which she reported sick. She has been hospitalized since that time at Deer Lodge Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Christie Street Hospital, Toronto."
At Christie Street Hospital, Toronto: "This patient was admitted from Deer Lodge Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba on 5.7.45. Chief Complaint: Amennorhoea four months. 2. Swelling in left upper quadrant of the abdomen. Personal History: Age 25, single. Patient left school at 18 years of age and lived at home assisting her mother until enlistment in the RCAF October 1942 as a WD -- General Duties. FAMILY HISTORY: Her father is alive at 75 years of age, a veteran of World War 1 and a pensioner for a stomach disability. Mother is alive at 75 -- precarious health. Two sisters age 42 and 39 alive and well, both married with healthy children. One brother, 29 years of age, married with no children was discharged from the Army for a thyroid condition for which no surgery was undertaken. Family history apart from the above not significant....FUNCTIONAL ENQUIRY: Wears glasses to read. Teeth fair. Has few sore throats. Patient states that she has had slight am cough with drms 2 of yellowish sputum for some time...she was not short of breath until onset of HPI but now complains of slight dysponea. Heart: no complaints. Appetite: good. Swelling in abdomen. Patient states she has had occasional dull pains in the lower right quadrant lasting five minutes, occurring very sporadically since the onset of HPI...patient states that she has always been irregular in menstruation...this is the longest such occasion in her life...she denies having been pregnant, intercourse and denies VD. PHYSICAL EXAMINATION: Patient is a thin, underweight, chronically ill looking young lady about stated age She has a peculiar colour to her skin which is rather a muddy yellow colour and has some pigmentation about her face....spleen is tremendous in size and appears to be harder than on admission.
"This patient has been seen by W/C R. A. Farquharson who feels that the diagnosis is most probably Myelosis, that radiation therapy should be cautiously employed, and that the prognosis is not encouraging." S/L E. O. F. Campbell, Medical Consultant, No. 1 RMBH, Christie Street Hospital, Toronto.
LAW Elizabeth Anne Shaw died on October 13, 1945. An autopsy was performed. "This young girl presented a most unusual blood dyscrasia. The general course of her disease was rapidly downhill, and from the onset of symptoms until her death, less than six months elapsed. Her first presenting symptom was a mass in the abdomen which was found to be due to a greatly enlarged spleen. Extensive investigation revealed an unusual blood picture characterized chiefly by a marked anaemia, hyperchromatic in type...no evidence of leukaemia infiltration...microscopically, the basis of the disease process was revealed to be an abnormality of the bone marrow primarily, the bone marrow being replaced....a very similar reaction was present within the spleen....atypical of Hodgkin's disease." Dr. W. L. Donohue, MD, Pathologist "Permission is requested to work up and if deemed advisable, to publish the case....this case is of sufficient interest and importance to be recorded."
FINAL DIAGNOSIS: Myeloid Metapala with secondary anemia resulting from hemorrhage. This was considered to be a very rare disease and Betty's case was to become part of the files for the family doctors of the Shaw family in June 1946 as the doctors wanted to do some follow up. S/L G. R. Turgeon also felt that "As this is an interesting case, it would be to the advantage of medical science to publish the results of the autopsy."
Betty Shaw's remains were transported by train back to Wainwright with military escort. LAW C. A. Nichalson, Princess Alice Barracks, acted as escort from Toronto to Wainwright. Military honours were desired and a Church of England Chaplain requested. The funeral, complete with casket, embalming, use of parlors, outer shipping case, press announcements, Toronto Star, Toronto Telegram, plus a CN Telegram to J. C. Macleod & Son, Funeral Directors, Wainwright, cost $72.20. Once the casket arrived in Wainwright, another $37 was billed for the funeral services and grave charges. LAW Shaw was buried wearing an RCAF-issued skirt, jacket, blouse, tie, cap, badge, with her own personal stockings, panties, brassiere and blue silk slip.
LAW Shaw purchased a $50 worth of Victory Bonds on October 14, 1943. Other items in the list of personal belongings included: clothing, a satin bed jacket, two embroidery hoops, jewellery (watch, rings, earrings, necklaces, a brooch), a Brownie camera, photos and a teddy bear with jacket.