How Did Benjamin Mee’s Wife Katherine Die?

In Cameron Crowe’s 2011 drama film ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ Benjamin Mee buys Rosemoor Wildlife Park while dealing with the death of his wife Katherine. He realizes that he needs a new place to live with his children Dylan and Rosie to move on from the unbearable loss. In reality, Katherine died after Benjamin and his family bought Dartmoor Zoo. As a graphic designer, she even created posters for the re-opening of the establishment before her death. Mee opened the zoo to the world with the pain of losing his wife. The animals at the place and his plight to run the zoo the best way he could helped him overcome the personal tragedy!

Katherine’s Fight With Cancer

Benjamin Mee and Katherine Carnegie discovered that the latter was suffering from cancer in 2004, the year they got married. After a series of headaches, Katherine went to see a doctor to get treatment for migraine but an MRI scan found a “big black ball-shaped shadow” on her brain. From a rural French village, she was taken to a prominent center of neurosurgery in Montpellier. Katherine received steroid treatment to reduce the size of the tumor for four days and at the end of the same, she underwent an operation. “The operation has been 100% successful. But it will come back,” Katherine’s surgeon told the couple after the procedure.

Katherine underwent eighteen months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy after the surgery. The treatment, however, was exhausting. When her body couldn’t tolerate the same anymore, the couple decided to limit it to monthly scans to check whether the tumor returned. Since her doctor was expecting the return of the tumor, Mee did his best to discover a way to prevent it from happening. In addition to sending his wife’s reports to experts all over the world, he even learned about scorpion venom and magnetic therapy to find out whether the same were options.

The Mee family bought Dartmoor Zoo in 2006. Benjamin and the rest of his family were preparing for the re-opening of the zoo when Katherine’s cancer returned in December of the same year. “Her scan on December 22, just before Christmas, was disastrous – the cancer was back in eight places. There was nothing they could do. It was a case of palliative care,” Mee told Devon Live about his wife’s illness.

Katherine’s Death

Katherine died on March 31, 2007, over three months after her cancer returned. During these months, her symptoms worsened. “She [Katherine] quickly developed a speech deficit, leaving her unable to get past certain words, making her repeat the same word again and again […]. She lost movement of her right hand very quickly, and her right arm suddenly became an encumbrance,” Mee wrote in ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ his memoir and the source material of the film. While his wife’s health was deteriorating, Mee was trying to find an alternative or advanced treatment procedure that could save the former.

When Katherine stopped eating solid food, Mee realized that it was time to inform their children, Milo and Ella, that their mother was dying. “As soon as she had grasped the enormity of the concept, Ella burst into tears and climbed across the table to me. ‘I don’t want Mummy to be dead,’ she said,” the author’s memoir reads. “But Milo stayed where he was. I told him it was okay to cry, but he just became very still as he took it into himself, and he said; ‘I don’t want to cry. I want to be strong for you, Daddy.’ Everybody has their own way, so he just watched Ella and me cry,” Mee added in his book.

Katherine’s funeral happened in Jersey, where she grew up. “Everyone who knew Katherine quickly appreciated what a special person she was, and felt the appalling injustice of her, of all people, being taken away. […] The strain, the horror, the disbelief, the sheer agony no one had been expecting to face, confronting the inexplicable, unjustifiable, inexcusable loss of such a favorite person. She was the one person for whom nobody present had ever had a bad word or negative memory,” Mee wrote in his memoir about his wife’s funeral.

Read More: We Bought a Zoo’s True Story: What Happened in Real Life?