If you live in the South Puget Sound area of Washington State, and are interested in starting a conversation with family members about what’s important to you when you think about the end of life (which comes to all of us, though we know not when), please join us on Sunday, October 9, 2016, at Calvary Lutheran Church in Federal Way, Washington, at 2 PM for a free two-hour workshop. Ann Hagensen, RN, FABC, (Virginia Mason Medical Center) will be presenting materials based in part on The Conversation Project. She will be joined by Karen Freeman Worstell (transformational grief coach and founder of NarrowBridge Solutions), Pastor Lori Cornell (of Calvary Lutheran Church), and myself.
This is a topic of vital interest to me, and not just because I have metastatic cancer. I have extensive experience exercising durable power of attorney and navigating communications between family members over estate and end-of-life choices. I know friends who had serious accidents or died unexpectedly without having these conversations with their loved ones, and as a result their family members were completely unprepared for the decisions they faced. Because this is so important to me, I serve as an advocate on regional and statewide initiatives to identify and honor patient goals of care and end-of-life wishes.
I hope you’ll join us!
Life has an odd way of reinforcing its lessons.
Due to my own lung cancer journey, I’ve learned a lot about the uncertainties of cancer diagnostic procedures and treatment. I’ve learned that cancer is sneaky; sometimes it doesn’t announce itself until it is in advanced stages, doesn’t behave as expected, doesn’t present a clear diagnosis with a “best” treatment option. And I’ve learned the value of making treatment choices that allow the patient to do what matters most to them, rather than prolonging life at any cost. For many patients, qualify of life is more important than quantity of days.
Recently, life gave me the opportunity to apply my hard-won wisdom to my beloved 14-year-old cat, General Nuisance.
General is a fluffy, snuggly ball of love. He has been MY cat since … Read more
Today hubby Gerry (my care partner) and I had a good start to our morning: we discussed how cancer affects relationships, then reviewed some time-critical household management chores over breakfast. Afterwards, he went out to paint the deck, and I prepared for some medical appointments and errands. Before I left, I poked my nose out the deck door to let him know I was leaving (carefully keeping both cats inside), then closed the door and departed.
After Gerry was through painting the deck, he was greatly surprised to discover his chemo-brained wife had locked the deck door from the inside (as was her routine) while he was outside (which was not routine).
He was alone on a freshly-painted deck at 11 am, ten to fifteen feet off the ground, knowing that I wouldn’t be home for another seven hours. He tried to get the attention of some workmen two yards away so they could call me, but they couldn’t hear him over their lawnmower.
Ten minutes of staring at the earth motivated his engineering brain to develop a plan that (he hoped) wouldn’t contribute to our medical bills. I cringed to hear the route my 77-year-old spouse chose to climb down to safety. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he successfully dealt with the challenge so he could care for me another day. This evening as the sun was setting, he graciously re-enacted the moment so I could take a picture.
I’m glad this didn’t result in a care partner role reversal.
Yesterday (September 7, 2016) marked the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek’s first airing. I can’t count the ways in which this show has influenced me. The biggest conscious influences:
- encouraged me to pursue a career in science and engineering
- motivated me to write my own stories
- helped me to accept that being analytical, making mistakes and expressing emotions are all OK
- showed people using logic and science to solve difficult problems (yeah, OK, and sometimes emotional convictions, intuition and force–that’s human too)
- showed me that others also value an upbeat vision of a future based on exploration (concepts as well as new places and people), tolerance, celebrating differences, and the scientific method.
Thanks to Gene Roddenberry and the multitudes of dedicated, creative people who helped bring the world of Star Trek to screens big, small, and flat.