Our organization is among several health leaders who are committed to a mission: Breaking the taboo about discussing end-of-life issues.
While our staff makes efforts every day to help people in our community share their advance directives with loved ones, we also recently teamed up with Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being this fall to host "Death Over Dinner." This program, which was born out of a separate conference hosted with Repogle last year, is designed to inspire people to talk about often-shunned subjects ― death and the dying proces
Recently, Stuart Scott, an ESPN sports anchor died of stomach cancer. In reading tributes to him, several quotations were mentioned from his speech at the 2014 ESPY Awards:
"I have one more necessity ― it's really two," he said, referring to his daughters. "The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do, is be a dad .... It's true."
"Don't give up. Don't ever give up."
"When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live."
The concept of dying with dignity is frequently in the news. The latest has been Brittany Maynard's wish to end her life. Brittany had the same brain tumor as my husband, Tom – a glioblastoma.
I understand Brittany's decision. The end game with this type of cancer is not pretty. Our family, however, took a different approach.
Tom's tumor presented itself in his spine. In the beginning, Tom had difficulty walking but the tumor quickly progressed, leaving him paralyzed in a matter of months. If you knew Tom, being immobile was not his style. He was that dad who played catch with our son and daughter and all the neighborhood kids. In the nicer months of the year, he had a regular, weekly tee time at a local golf course and tried to sneak in a couple of extra rounds of golf every week, too. He traveled with his job and we took some exceptional vacations. After living and caring for someone who is paralyzed, I have incredible empathy towards people who are confined to wheelchairs – it is not easy. But it would have been impossible if one of our neighbors hadn't made coming over every day to help me with Tom part of his daily routine.
I learned to celebrate life on my brother’s last day on earth. He had pancreatic and colon cancer. I walked into his room at the hospice suite in the hospital and there was someone sitting with him. I had no idea who this man was, but his presence and peacefulness told me all would be well.