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Sharing moments to learn, share, and heal

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Many people have had to accept the loss of a loved one, expected or not, and many have witnessed suffering. I recently watched as my dad battled against bowel cancer. He went from healthy one day and hardly a sick day in his life, to cancer with a prognosis of 5 years. He died in just over 4. He utilized MAiD July 25, 2018. It was by far the most courageous thing I have ever witnessed. It was such a gift to my dad that he could die with dignity on his terms. His final words were to the MAiD physician, saying what a wonderful thing he was doing and to “keep going with this amazing work”.

Now looking back I really wish I’d had someone to talk to along the way before my dad utilized MAiD. I think it would have been a relief to talk to someone who really understood my fears, my anguish, the ticking clock, to ask questions, or just to have someone to listen.

This site is lovingly dedicated to my dad David Novak, and my dear friend Clarissa.

evie

I was stunned when my husband who had multiple sclerosis and lung cancer, suddenly told us prior to the arrival of the palliative care team, that he wanted MAID. He said he had been thinking about his death for a while. There was no talking him out of this clear decision. He was in charge and we respected his end-of-life choice as hard as it was to hear. At that time, we had nobody to talk to about what it was like to have a special person in one’s life who chose MAID. We had questions….lots!!  What might be helpful to know that I hadn’t thought about? …or what could I expect from this end-of-life procedure? …Was it normal to have thoughts and feelings that galloped in every direction? We had no one who had experienced this kind of ending with whom we could talk openly. I only wish Bridge4You had been available for our family to just chat freely with someone who understood this kind of ending and walked this last unforgettable walk.

Susan

I have had several opportunities to support various family and friends through their end of life journeys…all were very special and profound experiences but I am so incredibly grateful for having had the chance to support my Aunt Sarah through her decision to choose a medically assisted death in May of 2018. Prior to choosing to pursue a MAiD application, Sarah’s life journey might not be considered unique amongst the many elderly Canadians who live into their 90’s. After a series of falls, Sarah begrudgingly entered into long term care and our feisty, independent aunt slowly became increasingly confined to her bed. After hearing her sad laments that she had not wanted her life to end up in long term care… I tentatively and with great trepidation mentioned the possible option of looking into MAiD as it had just been legislated 6 months prior. Although Sarah expressed gratitude for my having initiated this delicate conversation with her (much to my relief), she stated she didn’t feel inclined to pursue it “but was glad to know it might be an option.” 

It never came up again until 18 months later when I received a call from Aunt Sarah’s long term care home that she had asked for a MAiD application. It was truly an amazing journey my family and I were grateful to have experienced while supporting her through what were the final 3 weeks of her life. We were able to bring her to our home on a beautiful, warm Spring day where she was provided MAiD in our garden. 

One thing which would have made the journey easier would have been the ability to access emotional support from family or friends with lived experience. As MAiD was under 2 years old at the time of my aunt’s death, there were no established support networks when I inquired. For that reason, I was very keen to step up as a volunteer with Bridge4you! 

troy

I live in Alberta, I am Métis, and I have experienced the loss of both of my parents due to lung cancer. They each chose to have an assisted death. My mom died in 2017 when the legislation was less than a year old with 3+ weeks between her diagnosis and death – she was in excruciating pain during that time. My dad died in July 2020 five years after his diagnosis, in the first summer of the pandemic.  Being present with them both, along with my extended family through these powerful times, has bonded us in more ways than I can describe, and cemented my connections to the Métis Nation. In the moments when this was all happening though, I was so busy with getting my own head around the concept, the impending loss, the rules/processes about MAID, and the practical caregiving and running to my parents’ sides that I know that I missed some important reflection time for myself. I think having the support of Bridge4you would have been extremely helpful to me if it had been available because:
  • I didn’t know what kinds of questions to ask anyone. I felt very alone especially the first time.
  • I worried how much to talk about MAID in case it was seen as ‘influencing’ and that others would judge my parents for their choices.
  • I would have appreciated talking with someone who understood that this is not just a legal process but a very human experience first and foremost.

I look forward to listening to anyone thinking about assisted dying, who needs someone to talk with, who has ‘been there’.

isabella

It took 3 months for my husband to decide on a date after he got approved for MAiD. Those were a difficult 3 months , especially since he didn’t want to share his plans with anyone, except us family … I had to share my perspective and feelings to a good friend, I could not have done it without reaching out I had to respect his point of view.

And then he changed the date in addition …so all the waiting  until the final moment was excruciating …so talking with someone who has had prior experience would be very valuable, to help live through  this waiting period.

Andree

Four years ago, my daughter Kimberly chose Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) after a very long painful battle with cancer. 

Kim was diagnosed with cutaneous t-cell lymphoma (CTCL) in 2006.  She was 20 years old.   When she was diagnosed, we were told CTCL was an old man’s disease, not typically found in young people and that this type of lymphoma was not an aggressive cancer. 

At first the treatment and prognosis were encouraging.  However, after three years, the cancer became more aggressive, and Kim was referred to an oncologist at the Ottawa General Hospital.  He proposed a course of six chemotherapy treatments and told us she should be in remission in six months.

Unfortunately, her cancer did not respond to the chemotherapy and six treatments turned into months and years of chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatments, a stem cell transplant and blood transfusions.

At the end of April 2017, Kim made the decision to ask for Medical Assistance in Dying.  She was in so much pain that I was grateful she was able to choose MAiD.  Once she made this decision, it gave her a sense of regaining control of her life. 

She chose to spend her last days in the hospital and she was able to request the day for MAiD to take place. 

She took advantage of the waiting period to say goodbye to loved ones and to the medical staff who had taken such good care of her over the years. 

As she was unable to visit with everyone, she posted a beautiful message on social media thanking everyone for their support during her long illness and explaining her decision to choose MAiD.  Her post generated wonderful testimonials of love from family, friends, and co-workers, which she was able read. 

The waiting period also gave her an opportunity to plan her celebration of life. 

On her last day, her husband, her sister and I spent the day reminiscing and sharing stories.  It was an incredibly special day.  We all felt that Kim made the right decision in choosing MAiD.  Her suffering ended as she peacefully fell asleep.

Although it is hard to live without my daughter, I am grateful that she was able to choose MAiD.   

I lost both my parents and Kim’s father to cancer before Kim passed away.  I would have liked to speak to another parent whose child had also chosen MAiD.   I made enquiries but there were no such resources available at the time.  I wish Bridge4You had been available to me at that time.  Losing a child is so much harder than losing a parent or a spouse.

Robin

My family and I knew for months that my dad was considering a MAiD death, but that didn’t make it any easier when we found out a week in advance that he had chosen a date.

I still remember the day he first mentioned his plan and how it felt to me as though all the air had been sucked out of the room. Over the course of several months, my dad brought the subject up with my siblings and me a few times, which I interpreted as his checking whether he really did have our support. And he did, completely. I wasn’t ready to think about losing my dad, but I wasn’t about to challenge his right to make this decision either.

My dad had a lung disease and part of his reason for considering MAiD was that people with that illness essentially choke to death, and naturally he wanted to avoid dying that way. As well, his illness was causing his overall health to deteriorate quickly and it made breathing and even talking very difficult. Even so—despite him having raised the topic a few times and knowing he was increasingly unwell—I assumed the end was further away.

I should have clued in at one point that he was getting closer to being ready. On Mother’s Day, he sent me an email (because that was how my dad communicated about difficult things) telling me how proud he was of my kids and of me. “I’m proud of all you’ve done,” he finished, before signing it with the usual, “Love Dad, XXOO.” I week or so later when my brother called to tell me Dad had chosen a date to go ahead with the procedure, it all clicked into place – that message, some of the other things he had said to me around that time, and a health issue he had decided not to have addressed. He was getting ready to sign off.

In the few weeks before he died on May 25, 2021, my dad’s health continued to decline. In the time we spent with him in that last week once we knew he had chosen a date, it was clear to me that he was ready to go. I wasn’t ready for him to go, but I respected his choice and am incredibly grateful that I was able to support him through the process.

I do wish my family and I had been able to find better support for ourselves during that time. I’m thankful that my family and I were there for each other, but I really could have used someone to talk to who had been through it and could let me know what to expect. Now that I’m on the other side, I hope to be that for others.

Marianne

I was not surprised when my Mom announced to me, after first hearing about MAiD, that “if it should ever become necessary, that’s what I want to do!” My siblings and I often heard during our teenage years when Mom was working on an Alzheimers unit in a PCH, that she didn’t want to live like that. She felt that maintaining dignity was of the utmost importance, as well as continuing to have a reasonable amount of quality of life. Less than 6 months after our MAiD conversation, she was diagnosed with cancer, and approximately 1 month after that, she used MAiD, in the spring of 2017.

The thing I struggled with the most, was trying to wear many hats at the same time. At the time that my Mom was diagnosed , I was working as a Palliative Care nurse, making home visits to terminally ill people. I soon found that I was juggling a lot — trying to advocate for my Mom and fulfill her wishes, using my nursing knowledge and experience to troubleshoot situations and to manage her symptoms, and also support my siblings. I realized afterwards that I hadn’t taken care of myself, and had pushed aside many feelings, thinking “well I have dealt with similar situations so many times at work, this is just the same”. But it wasn’t.

A few months after Mom died, I was contacted by one of the social workers who were involved in Mom’s MAiD. Two of them were planning to start up a support group (the first in Canada!) and she asked if I felt the need to take part in this, if it would be helpful. I am so glad that

I did, and found it extremely helpful to talk with others who had experienced the MAiD situation with a family member, friend, etc. It helped me to realize that the feelings I had were normal and the group members were very open about sharing their feelings and situations, which varied enormously of course.

After the 10 week session was completed I felt that I could hopefully help others who were struggling with various issues surrounding this extremely emotional and sensitive time in their lives. This led me to become a Bereavement Volunteer with Palliative Manitoba, and ultimately to volunteering with Bridge4You. I hope that anyone who has come to this site looking for support will reach out and connect — we are here for you!

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

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