Suzz

My husband was a police officer and paramedic and witnessed countless people suffering and experiencing tragedy. He would often say, “There are worse things than death.” It was an uncomfortable statement for me that I never quite understood until our lives changed with his own illness. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma – brain cancer. While recovering from surgery he had a massive middle cerebral artery stroke. He came home two and a half months later not being able to walk, stand, talk, read, or write. He was on a G-tube and required total care. I took care of him for 15 months. It was devastating. It was traumatic. Our lives turned upside down. In a complicated and broken home health care system, I quit my job to take care of him. He required total care 24/7 and could never be left alone. Before our lives were infected with glioblastoma, we had an incredible, full, adventurous, successful and beautiful life.

While he was able to gain some speech back and get off the G-tube, he was left with many deficits and little quality of life. His comprehension and intelligence were intact and he was acutely aware of everything. He was essentially trapped in a body that was no longer working with the ability to only say a few words.

When two areas of concern showed up a year on brain scans later, along with increasing headaches and seizures, I asked the question that no one would ever want to ask someone they love. “Do you want to die?” He was able to say, “Yeah.” I asked him if he wanted me to get the information on medical assistance in dying and he said, “Yeah.” Quality of life was everything to him and the reality was death was going to happen. I attempted to advocate for him to be assessed and was immediately told that because he couldn’t read or write he wouldn’t qualify. I have a background in crisis counselling and advocacy and I knew I had to dig deeper in the system to be heard.

It wasn’t a simple process for his situation. There was a systematic panic of not knowing how to deal with his particular case and disabilities while ensuring that protocol was followed. I had to spend a lot of time wearing the advocate hat with very little time or support to process that he was going to die. MAiD is a unique experience and I fully support allowing someone to die with dignity, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still painful. My husband had already suffered enough and he wanted to die before the glioblastoma completely took over his brain. Thanks to getting approved for MAiD he was able to.

While I’ve navigated through my own healing and grief, I felt the call to become part of the community that identifies the need and importance of supporting individuals through MAiD with compassion, understanding and shared experience.

The week before my husband died, he was showing signs of decline. He was experiencing short-term memory issues and he forgot he was dying on the day of MAiD. When I reminded him that he went through the process of being assessed for Medical Assistance in Dying to allow him to die with dignity, he remembered and smiled at me, put up his arm, flexed his muscles and said ,“Yes!” with such pride and empowerment. Being able have access to MAiD did not take away days, it took away a horrible ending.

“There is an urge to carve one’s name on a tree. To say I was here and this meant something; and it matters.” – Quote by Jason Silva, (filmmaker, futurist, philosopher, and public speaker)

My husband is no longer here but I will continue to carve his name (so to speak) in everything I do as I move through this life supporting others who walk this journey.