Death and dying is such a taboo subject. It’s a bit like sex, no one really casually discusses it and if they do then there is a sense of awkwardness and it makes most people feel uncomfortable. However, death is something that is going to happen to each one of us at some point – no one gets out of here alive. I believe it should be given more conversation time so that it isn’t such a touchy subject.
As hard as it is to discuss, it is even harder to comprehend at age 33 that death is something that could potentially happen to me before 2021 is out. Of course, I don’t like to think about the possibility of this but with it being my current reality it has made me start looking at life differently.
I have made certain decisions, for example, where I would like to be when, or if, I die. It is sad and it is beyond difficult to think about, but I believe that I should do it to help myself become more familiar with it. If I get to the point where I am told that I haven’t got long left, I hope that it won’t come as such a shock because I haven’t been living with my head buried in the sand about it. Whether this will be the case or not I don’t know, but I would rather plan for the ‘just incase’ than not plan at all.
When I was 15 years old a tragedy struck our family and my cousin of only 24 years died in a car accident. To protect my family, I will not go into detail about this however, I will say that it was one of the most terrible things I have ever had to experience. Because of this, I grew up with only one idea of what death was like and it was a death of this kind; completely out of the blue, a total shock, something that tore people’s lives apart.
It was only a few months ago that I realised that death isn’t always this way. I know this might sound stupid, but it has been the only time that there has been one of those realisation moments for me. It happened when I was in the hospice for the first time and during my stay there were a couple of deaths. Knowing that there had been a death, I was waiting for the screaming and the panic but there didn’t seem to be any – there was just peace, stillness and calm. I obviously don’t know what it was like in that moment when that person breathed their last breath but everything about it was just very different than I expected it to be.
I really had no idea death could be this way but then I have never thought about death in enough detail to really think about what it might be like for other people in different situations.
It was this experience at the hospice that made me feel very differently towards my own death. Let me just state for the record – I DO NOT want to die. However, because I have cancer there are so many times, for one reason or another, that I am faced with talking about the end of my life. Don’t get me wrong, if I think about dying for too long then I can’t cope with it, I get upset and I cry, but if I am to think about it briefly then I can make little plans – which I have done. I have found this easier all thanks to my experience in the hospice.
It has made these decisions that bit easier because I feel more secure and at peace with how the end of my life may be due to how I have witnessed death in the hospice. I know that the staff are all so caring and kind and that they have patients’ best interests at the forefront of their care. They will do anything to make you feel as content and as comfortable as possible.
Another thing I have had to deal with recently all thanks to cancer is whether I want to be resuscitated if I die. This is because of my diagnosis and my prognosis; the doctors have to ask and have me come to a decision on a ‘Do Not Resuscitate Statement’. I will refer to this from here on out as DNRS, so I don’t have to type as much haha!
The first time this was ever mentioned to me was when I was in A&E at the start of lockdown. A doctor came in and asked me if I would want to be resuscitated. I replied with a quiet and quivery ‘I have no idea’ to which he replied ‘If I was you, with the state your body is in, you wouldn’t have a good quality of life so I’d say go with do not resuscitate.’ Oh, yeh thanks for that doctor, I’m on chemo, ill with an infection, on my own in A&E, maybe just f**k off!
This experience was not a nice one and I purposely didn’t think about it again until the next time chemo took me into hospital, and I was asked for a second time. This time the doctor asking was much nicer, but I still didn’t make a decision. There was a third time too and a fourth, it was on the fourth time, I made my decision.
I was asked about it last week in the hospice and I thought to myself that I needed to make a choice so that I can box it away and not have to think about it again. I came to my decision by talking it through with the doctors here and with Ash – who like me had no idea about what decision to make!
Basically, because I have decided that if I die from cancer I would like to be here in the hospice, by agreeing to a DNRS, if my heart stops, that will be it, I will be gone. They won’t call an ambulance and rush me for CPR at A&E. So the decision was kind of made for me and I was at peace with that.
It was an incredibly hard thing to decide and it isn’t a decision that you expect to be making at such a young age, but my attitude was – I have to decide on this so just come on and do it. So I did.
For the rest of the day and night afterwards I felt very on edge and teary, it wasn’t until I was about to go to bed that I realised how big of a deal it was for me to have made that decision. It was only me that could have made that choice and I did it, on my own. That is big.
I know that the way I feel won’t help those that I may leave behind but for me and what I have to go through on a daily basis, it is a comfort that I can now put these thoughts into little boxes in my mind and not think about them again. I definitely feel like a weight has been lifted after making my decision on a DNRS.
I decided to write about death and dying as a blog post because if it hadn’t been for my experience at the hospice and my realisation about death then I would never have had the chance to feel that little bit more at peace with it. It has always been my hope that through writing this blog I may help someone else. That in my eyes is a job well done.
I am keeping this short (I think) and sweet as I know it isn’t an easy thing to read about – it wasn’t an easy thing to write about and I feel so nervous about posting it, but I think that is a good thing. There won’t only be me that has had to go through this, and it won’t only be my family that have to deal with someone in this situation. I am breaking down a barrier by speaking about the ‘un-spoken’ and I hope that it is as helpful to you as it is to me to write about it.
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