Advance Care Planning

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Engage With Grace This Thanksgiving Weekend

Editor’s note: State of Health is participating in the Engage with Grace blogrally. Engage with Grace aims to get people talking about their wishes for end of life and advanced care. The Health Care Blog has put up the HTML code, if you want to host this on your own blog.

By Alexandra Drane

One of our favorite things we ever heard Steve Jobs say is: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” We love it for three reasons: 1) It reminds all of us that living with intention is one of the most important things we can do. 2) It reminds all of us that one day will be our last. 3) It’s a great example of how Steve Jobs just made most things (even things about death – even things he was quoting) sound better.

Most of us do pretty well with the living with intention part – but the dying thing? Not so much. And maybe that doesn’t bother us so much as individuals because heck, we’re not going to die anyway!! That’s one of those things that happens to other people.

Then one day it does happen — to someone else. But it’s someone that we love. And everything about our perspective on end of life changes.

Know what you want at the end of your life; know the preferences of your loved ones. Print out this one slide.

If you haven’t personally had the experience of seeing or helping a loved one navigate the incredible complexities of terminal illness, then just ask someone who has. Chances are nearly three out of four of those stories will be bad ones — involving actions and decisions that were at odds with that person’s values. And the worst part about it? Most of this mess is unintentional — no one is deliberately trying to make anyone else suffer. It’s just that few of us are taking the time to figure out our own preferences for what we’d like when our time is near, making sure those preferences are known, and appointing someone to advocate on our behalf. Continue reading

Living With (Not Fighting) Terminal Cancer

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in the health AGEnda blog. On the day the FDA revoked its approval of Avastin, Ms. Berman’s perspective is particularly insightful.

Amy Berman

Amy Berman

I have been celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness month. This isn’t just because I had the good fortune to celebrate my birthday in October, but because one year after being diagnosed with a terminal illness and choosing to treat it non-aggressively, I feel great. I have less pain than I did one year ago. The shooting pains I often felt last year in my right breast have almost entirely vanished, thanks to my hormone-suppressing drugs. My lower spine—the site of metastasis—aches only occasionally, and only when I overdo it. If I get plenty of rest and fluids, eat right, and avoid standing for long periods or lifting heavy objects, I remain pain free. Although I may take a few more breaks than I used to or find myself more tired at night, I can still fill each day with meaningful activities, just as I always have.

I can honestly say that this has been the best year of my life, both personally and professionally.
I have been able to spend quality time with my family, while taking advantage of numerous opportunities to speak and write about the importance of individuals being involved in decisions about their own health care, in addition to my ongoing work as senior program officer for the John A. Hartford Foundation. I have been more loving, more accepting of love, and I believe more effective personally and professionally than at any other point in my life.  And I feel good.

Continue reading