I have this amazing friend. She has been a part of my life for over 25 years. My friend is fierce, strong, a good mother, a great wife, brave, and she is dying. About 7 years ago she was diagnosed with Carcinoid Syndrome, which is when a rare cancerous tumor called a carcinoid tumor secretes certain chemicals into the blood stream. These tumors occur in the gastrointestinal system or in the lungs. The symptoms of this horrible disease usually don’t appear until late, leaving those who have it with little hope of a cure. Doctors are able to treat the cancerous tumors, but the syndrome itself cannot be fixed. She has been suffering with this for several years, and while there are periods of brightness, most of the time she is hoping for a day without pain or another trip to the ER.
Recently she became part of a lobby group that helped write a bill, allowing those with terminal conditions to die on their own terms. She stood up in front of a senate sub-committee and explained, without mincing any words, how people like herself should be able to gain access to life ending medications so they can decide when enough is enough. This beautiful brave woman told the men and women in front of her exactly what her body is in store for and the suffering she will have to endure.
“As the illness spreads throughout my intestines and abdomen, it will eat away at my abdominal wall causing holes in my stomach, sides, and back, which in turn will cause the contents of my intestines to spill out. I will no longer have control of my bowels, which will be constantly oozing out of my body. On top of that, this disease is slowly eating at my bones, so getting to the bathroom would be next to impossible. The burden of this would be put on my husband and my son. I don’t want that… I don’t want them to remember me in that way,” she said with conviction. “There are things worse than death!”
The unfortunate part of this story, is that the bill’s sponsors let it pass the deadline without taking a vote to move it to the full committee. Many believe it to be due to the religious groups lobbying against it… claiming it would lead to copycat suicides and send a bad message to teenagers. While it is a concern that these medications could fall into the wrong hands, precautions were written into the bill applying it to people who have 6 months or less to live. Death is not something that can be avoided, as none of us are immortal, however to succumb to the pain of a disease that carries a death penalty, shouldn’t the one suffering be able to decide when they can no longer live with the torture.
I am not going to lie, dying scares the crap out of me. The finality of it and what lies beyond it are what keep me awake at night. However, there is something that scares me even more than death – suffering in pain and having my family live through it. There are so many in my life that have passed and many times my last memory is of them hooked up to machines with tubes breathing for them. I would much rather remember the smiles, laughing, and the happiness. My friend is not just wanting this for herself, but for her family. She wants to be remembered as the vibrant strong woman that she is, and not the leftover appearance this disease will leave her with. Is that so wrong?
There are 5 states currently, that have death with dignity laws. Since I know she will not give up, maybe just maybe, our state will become number 6. While I may not be ready for her to leave my life, I will, when she is ready, stand beside her as she ends her journey. I just hope it is on her terms!
This is a tough subject… I would love to hear others thoughts and opinions on this. Please leave a comment or ask a question.
Have a blessed day!
Mom of 5 amazing kids, married to Shawn, retired teacher of 19 years, cares for a total of 9 pets (3 frisky cats and 6 great-tempered dogs), daughter, really amateur photographer, photoshopper, a football, wrestling, track, baseball, dance, and tumbling mom, zazzle designer, constant dieter, handles the budget, hates to cook, addicted to coffee, trying-to-quit smoker, TV potato, and passionate about writing.