“Know that I love you, and I never wanted to leave you.”
My wife was a very private person. To respect this, I will not use my name or hers in this short article. Rather than make up a name, I will use the pronoun “she” or refer to her as “my wife”.
She did not want to die. We retired at the same time, and we were starting to enjoy our retirements. I often commented on how good she looked for her age. Slender, fit, a great walker. She went to exercise classes regularly. She started having abdominal and digestive issues which bothered her, but that seemed minor at the time. And then, in late July 2019, she was diagnosed with advanced Ovarian Cancer. A few days later, after seeing an oncologist, we met with one of the pain management physicians at the cancer agency. She was asked to complete a form which included the question “What do you fear most about your disease?”. Her top two fears were pain, and trouble breathing. It is common for people in treatment for Cancer to describe the experience as a roller-coaster. At times, we felt there was hope, at least for a survival of a few years. At other times our hopes were dashed by the news from the agency. She was a long-time supporter of Canada’s Dying with Dignity organization. But when I first suggested she apply for MAiD, she was hesitant. Her main worry was that the application would expire after six months. After a few weeks, we called the MAiD team, and they assured us that there was no expiry time for an approved application. She then decided to apply, and was given approval, if she chose, to end her life with the assistance of a physician. Many months passed. The time was difficult. On a few occasions, she said to me “I need an advocate for MAiD”. I knew she wanted me to urge her to do it. My reply was always the same: “I love you. I cannot ask you to do this.” But then in March 2020, when the treatments had all failed, things changed. She had her final appointment with the oncologist. We asked the oncologist how people with her disease typically died. The major cause of death from Ovarian Cancer is from bowel blockage, usually accompanied by severe pain. Also common is a fluid build-up in the abdomen below the diaphragm, which makes breathing very difficult. There are other causes too, of course, all equally distressing. On the walk home after this depressing consultation, I suggested that the time had come. A few hours later, she asked me to call the MAID physician to schedule the procedure. After this had been arranged, she said “I wish I had the type of cancer where you just drift into a coma without pain and then die.” She died, at her request, on our bed at home. Her last words to me were “I love you”. Some of the personal stories I have read about MAiD give the impression that the person was ready to accept death, and was grateful that MAiD was an option. While she was grateful for the option, I know that she did not want to die. The day before she died, she asked me to send an email to her closest friends with the message “Know that I love you, and I never wanted to leave you.” For me, this was the most difficult time I have ever experienced, and I will live forever with the traumatic scars caused by the unfair and horrible disease that took her away. But I am grateful that my wife was spared the two things she feared most, and that she did not die alone. The MAiD journey for you and the person you are supporting is not easy, but it is necessary.
** Submitted Anonymously from a Member of Bridge C-14