My beloved wife died on the 1st of September 2020, via MAiD. Annie was a passionate artist, and she loved her family, and me, with almost as much passion. Her leaving came to us relatively quickly, at just under two years. She’d had a very successful elective surgery at the end of October 2018 which thrilled her. It required a general anaesthetic, and the only downside of the whole procedure was a frightening experience she had with the anaesthesia (that experience was a source of many questions over the following months). Three weeks after that surgery, I noticed she was slurring some words, but we didn’t think much of it, other than wondering if the anaesthetist had damaged something during the intubation.
In January 2019, she experienced some abdominal pains, but they went away after a few days. They came back in March, and this time they did not go away. She had emergency surgery at the end of March to remove an intestinal blockage. Definitely not cancer, the surgeon told us.
Four weeks later, we saw the surgeon for the diagnosis. After some preliminaries about diet and so forth, the surgeon asked “Now, are you ready for the really bad news? You have a very bad cancer.” Annie had Stage 4 colon cancer. Her prognosis was anywhere from two to five years, assuming she had chemotherapy. She became palliative right away. We were freaking out. The system connected us with Hospice, and we had a visit from a Hospice worker. We were informed about MAiD, and that the wonderful rapid response physician who came to our house after Annie came home from that emergency surgery, was authorized to provide MAiD. I can’t express the huge relief we both felt, knowing that she would not have to die in pain. She was advised to have chemotherapy, but she had an art show at the beginning of July, and she did not want to start chemo before that.
Meanwhile, the slurred speech worsened. For a few months she could whisper, but speech was disappearing. We had a session with a local speech path who could not help. We saw two neurologists, and she went through much testing. But in the end, they wanted her to go to the ALS Centre in Vancouver, and we lived on Vancouver Island, so travel, given ongoing cancer issues, would have been difficult. When ALS was first suggested, by one of the visiting home care nurses, Annie said to me “If I have ALS, then I’m glad I have cancer.”
Seeing no point in cancer treatment, she focused on quality of life. She spent lots of time in the garden. And she created new paintings and fabric work til a few days before she died. She had completely lost her speech many months before she died, so we could no longer talk to each other, besides her writing notes. The suspicion of ALS was now very strong, as she also had no control over her mouth and throat, and so had great trouble eating and drinking.
In the end she never had a conclusive diagnosis, but the lovely rapid response physician/MAiD provider, and her colleagues, were very sure Annie had Bulbar ALS, on top of the stage 4 colon cancer.
Towards the end of August 2020, her abdominal pains came back, and she’d just had enough. Her death, when and where she chose, on our living room sofa, in the presence of her two children, and me, her husband, was the most beautiful and welcome death I could ever imagine. She certainly showed me how it’s done. So incredibly brave.
I could not have asked for a more compassionate treatment from the home care nurses, and from the wonderful physician who released her from her pain. MAiD was an absolute blessing for us, and Annie’s passing was beautifully gentle and very quick. I would not have changed a thing.