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Love Your Life to Death....and other great resources

Love Your Life to Death....and other great resources

Posted by Kims1961 on Feb 19, 2019 4:53 pm

Hello....I wasn't sure where to best post some of these recent resources I came across as they really  could apply to any of the discussion forums, but thought I'd start here with this wonderful group.

Ironically - prior to my breast cancer diagnosis in 2017 - I was looking into Palliative Care Courses and courses of death and dying ( I am a social worker). I knew in my own life and professionally the impact of grief and as a society we still struggle to talk about death / the process of dying and grieving.  Then....I am diagnosed with cancer and go through the myriad of emotions, worries, sleepless nights etc. I thought my husband and I had had "the talk" about our wishes - but realized somehow we had missed this.  It's a difficult conversation but so important and now with cancer, no one wants to talk to me about death and dying.  Rather -  I get the positive messages - like you'll recover and live a long life etc etc...  Even harder now to bring it up to my husband - so he finally agreed that we both - including him - need to prepare what our wishes are for end of life. We agreed we would each do our own and then share them when it was a "good" time to have this talk.  As I started to prepare - I realized there is ALOT to consider. So here are some resources I found that I hope others will find useful too....

1. Book - Love Your Life to Death.  Written by an oncology and hospice nurse.  Her focus is on talking about grief and advance care planning. 
 " ​When we learn to talk about and plan for grief, something amazing happens. We live more fully and we suffer less at the end of our life. Our loved ones and workplaces suffer less and are able to move through their grief."
The author - Yvonne Heath spoke at a cancer forum near me as well as spoken at Princess Margaret Hospital.  She is a funny, lively woman with a great zest for life and planning for death.  Well worth attending any of her workshops if you can.

2. Canadian Hospice website - has amazing resources on it!  
Be sure to check out the resource   -  " Speak UP "  - on the Advance Care Planning tab.  It also has it's own website:
They have an online tool that helps you to write your own care plan for end of life.  Lots of great things to think about and to let your family know what your wishes are.

My worry with my cancer diagnosis is that I wanted my family to be "ok" should something happen to me. This type of thinking was not me losing hope, but rather a healthy way to process my illness and to start to accept it. By using these resources I hope to spare my family stress/ worry etc. about what to do when I am faced with end of life - as I would also want to know their wishes for end of life.  And....maybe I'm a control freak and wanted my end of life to be in my control as much as possible.

Finally...wow...this is a long post!  sorry....there was a great segment on CBC where a man wrote his own eulogy and his son read it at his funeral.  It was touching, humorous and captured the essence of who he was...as he wrote it....and don't we all want the last word?  ha ha...  Kim



Re: Love Your Life to Death....and other great resources

Posted by Elizabeth06 on Feb 19, 2019 5:32 pm

Hi Kims1961‍ 
this is an important topic for all of us to consider.
after being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, I began broaching this subject with my husband.  He completely shut down.  I realized that while I was considering the end of my life and what that meant, his worry was losing his wife and the life we shared.  When he did respond on this topic it would be a kind of positive diversion.  We don’t need to deal with that now, you’ll be okay, etc.
i wanted to ensure that my wishes were known, and acknowledged.  It did not mean that I thought death was imminent or that my energy would not continue to be focused on living my life.
there came a time, after a drug failure and being very unwell, that my husband agreed to join me in working thru these issues.  We went together to lawyers and funeral planning, etc.  He wanted me to have peace of mind.  I do, now that these plans are in place.
we sat with my children(now adults) and spoke openly about what would happen, what our wishes were.
my fear had been that there would be drama and disruption at a time when they would need to lean on each other for support.  I hope making my wishes clear will influence what happens after my death.
life can change so quickly.  All of us on this site are aware of that.  Working thru these issues allows us to have some control as we continue to move forward.
i haven’t written a eulogy yet, but once I watch the link you provided, I might reconsider...
thanks again!

Re: Love Your Life to Death....and other great resources

Posted by Kims1961 on Feb 19, 2019 5:46 pm

Elizabeth06‍  Great response - thank you!  Your brought up some excellent points about reducing any drama/ disruption after we're gone.  When my mom died, again, we thought she had discussed her wishes with my father, but realized ...not really.  It was such a difficult time for him - trying to cope with his own grief and then manage the many decisions - that I just want to be sure I alleviate as much of that as I can, while I can.  It's not an easy topic to bring up  and often gets procrastinated on...but even if I at least have it written down and available for my family - it should help them.

Thanks for your input.

Re: Love Your Life to Death....and other great resources

Posted by ACH2015 on Feb 19, 2019 7:30 pm


Thanks for sharing this very important post and the information contained within.

In my situation, I look at everything from a practical perspective.

I've always looked at planning for today and the future. Mortgage insurance, life insurance, liability etc... have always been a given with my wife and I. Assigning beneficiaries for insurance policies, having all major purchases (house, cars, etc...) in both names eliminates the need for unnecessary legal challenges or infighting down the road.

A few years before being diagnosed with cancer (2013) my wife and I figured it was time to do our wills up. We did so, including the executor, the POA's, our wishes in the event of serious injury or illness as to what level of medical interventions would occur etc.... 

I had joked for years to just cremate me and put me in the pickle jar I kept in the basement. No service, no reception - just the bare minimum.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2016. My father was diagnosed with brain cancer in October of 2016, and died in December of 2016. Both his and mom's funeral plans were prearranged, the plots, the headstones, the services etc... Truly this is the kindest thing anyone can do for their family. When you are facing the death of a loved one, the last thing you should be doing is visiting the funeral home to make and choose arrangements. When dad died, all we had to do was phone the funeral home and attend for required signatures and provide the photo and obituary to be used in the death notice.

The biggest problem we encountered was that my dad had not advised any of us what level of medical intervention he wanted in the event of serious illness. Fortunately, during a family discussion after my diagnosis the end of life discussion came up. From that discussion it became clear in my mind that my father's belief was to fight on until the doctor's determined there was no further treatment available. I shared this with my mother and family. That part was dealt with, but it truly is something that would have been better to have been discussed, written down and known prior to being at death's door.

I changed my mind after my dad died - about what I wanted done with my remains. We purchased  cremation plots in the family plot, chose  urns (but I still think I'm going to use the pickle jar), chose a headstone and inscription for my wife and I, the service and reception as well. All done.

I helped my friends family before she died this past January. Palliative care and all that entails was discussed. I had done the research for my father, talked to the social workers at the hospital to get the process moving - so I knew the drill. I was glad to offer my assistance to Deb's family at their time of need. 

We are all going to die. Sometimes we get this factor thrust upon us when diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or in a serious accident. That's not the time for your family to have to be making decisions about your last wishes. They are dealing with the shock, emotions and hoping for the best for you.

Preparing and writing your last wishes, wills, beneficiaries, POAS's and prearranging your services of choice are no different than anything else we plan for in our lives.

Planning for tomorrow - today, takes the stress off of both you and your family before the need arises.

Keep well and keep on top of things the best you can for your families sake.

ACH2015 - Andy.


Re: Love Your Life to Death....and other great resources

Posted by WesT on Feb 20, 2019 8:49 am

Thanks Kims1961‍  for starting a conversation about a subject almost no one wants to talk about or deal with.

In the weeks after my diagnosis and before my surgery my wife asked me a bunch of life questions.  Some related to our household circumstance (mortgage, bills, expenses, assets etc) and some topics of which I didn't want to talk about or deal with.

Hey, I have life insurance so you will have some financial comfort. 

But when asked what do you want when you die, I was at a loss.  Being my usual pessimistic sarcastic self I stated "Have me cremated and throw me out in Wednesday's trash pickup! 

Mmmm, that one didn't go over well!

What it boiled down to was I was somewhat in denial and I "assumed" that everything would be good in the end.  It was but......

Specifying the specifics I would like done after I am gone has still not been resolved but it is something that has been weighing on me since I was asked.

I think it is time because although I no longer am dealing with cancer, a recurrence is a definite possibility and you never know what other challenge will throw your way in an instant!

Thanks Kim!