Occasionally in my online lung cancer support group, a family member or caregiver wonders if they made the right treatment choices for their loved one. I can’t imagine the anguish felt by a spouse or partner wondering if they should have agreed to a radiation treatment or that last round of chemo, especially when it made the patient miserable without preventing their death.
Such personal stories emphasize to me the importance of open communication about illness and dying. Too often we are so busy fearing and avoiding death that we forget to ask each other what we’re really thinking and feeling.
I think both lung cancer patients and their family members need to let each other know it’s OK to talk about the possibility of dying sooner rather than later. After all, we are ALL going to die sometime. We need to let each other know under what conditions we would want our lives prolonged by cancer treatment, antibiotics, machines, or CPR. Most of us will face such choices towards the end of our lives, even if we simply grow old.
Preferably we would have such conversations when life is bright and happy, before an accident or illness makes the conversation urgent. However, we tend to avoid the subject, so the conversation is forced by circumstances, or ignored entirely until the opportunity is no longer available. We lung cancer patients and caregivers need to look for ways to encourage such discussions.
“The Conversation Project” aims to promote such conversations about death and our end-of-life preferences. Their statistics: “60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is ‘extremely important,'” yet “56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes.” The site offers videos, a starter kit and suggestions to get the discussion going.
Please let your spouse/partner and older children know you’re open to talking about death, and have thoughts you want to share. Don’t leave your family members wondering if they followed your wishes.
. . . And, for what’s it’s worth, if you’d like place to discuss not-so-distant end-of-life issues with like-minded people, allow me to suggest checking to see whether there’s a meeting on that subject is planning a meeting near you. Enter your zip code and it’ll try to find a group near you on the map:
One of the first things I did years ago after a divorce was to make out a will. That was in my opinion back then putting things in order. But when told I had lung cancer and being faced with slim survival stats, I took it a step further and made out the documents for medical wishes. Medical power of attorney and living will. But I knew these were not enough, I needed to make prearrangement preparations so my funeral would be what I wanted for myself and not my husbands ideas. Yet even this was not enough to give me peace.
Before any of that, I spoke candidly with my Savior, begging for more time but if not for forgiveness for anything that might prevent me having eternal life. Then I spoke to my husband about my wishes for him. Move on, and don’t be paralyzed by my death. Then I spoke candidly to my children about not spending their life grieving but instead celebrating what we had. After that I arranged trust for my grandchildren and for my parents care.
It seemed that my friends need extra care too. After all of that, I found a some peace. If it was my time, everything was taken care of and now the professionals could take care of me. I did not want to endure pain. I knew I wanted to be in heavy pain medication administered in a hospital or institution. Perhaps with my husband holding my hand and my kids if they could handle it kissing my cheeks.
We all die eventually. I just pray it is later but if not I pray it is swift and pain free. In the mean time, I will proceed with my days, enjoying them and those I love. Also I will reduce my junk and clutter so they don’t have to. I will try to support those who have to face death too soon. And for now I have peace. Until death knocks on my door again and then I will rethink the whole deal again.
Wow! What wise words of wisdom! Everyone should have these things in place anyway, but most do not like to think about dying. I agree it gives you freedom to not worry and enjoy the rest of your life.