My beautiful niece, Jill Williams, died from terminal cancer on July 15, 2021. She had only retired just over three years prior and was enjoying traveling with her husband, Bob. A little over two years into retirement, however, Jill was diagnosed with cancer. She spent the nearly eighteen months following suffering progressively more from small cell lung cancer, which eventually metastasized throughout her body.
Jill was very sweet and kind. If I had ever met an angel on earth, it would have been Jill. She never spoke badly about anybody. She was always loving and willing to help out. She was a great mother and shared a beautiful life with her husband and her son, Bobby.
She underwent chemo and immunotherapy treatments, but treatment only weakened her physical state. Both were ineffective against the cancer. Jill’s oncologist took her off treatments for a few months in hopes that she would regain some strength, but it was futile. Three months later, when she returned for evaluation, her oncologist let her know the cancer had metastasized and that she had less than six months to live. He discontinued all treatments and told her it was time to enroll in hospice. That was six weeks before she passed.
Hospice tried everything to keep Jill comfortable, without success. During that time, I watched her condition slowly take its toll on her physical health and wellbeing. Jill had expressed her clear desire to die peacefully on her own terms to avoid pain and suffering. Tragically, living in Florida meant that she was without the option of medical aid in dying.
Instead of having peace of mind and autonomy, Jill and her loving family continued to helplessly watch her suffer in unnecessary pain for at least two of the last three weeks of her life. When pain is inescapable, every day is an eternity. Her last week was horrible. She could not eat or drink. She was nearly comatose, but alert enough to recognize her suffering. Her body wasted away as she starved to death.
No human being should die like this. Medical aid in dying must be allowed for any person with a terminal prognosis who chooses not to suffer pointlessly in their final days on earth. Jill knew what she wanted, and that’s the damn frustrating thing about it. She couldn’t have what she wanted–a peaceful end to her suffering. I promised to myself, for Jill, that her voice would be heard.
We desperately need medical aid in dying as an option in the state of Florida. I have cancer (Merkle cell carcinoma) and would like the right to decide what is right for me and my situation. I just told my wife, “You shoot me when I tell you when.” Obviously, she won’t do it, but that sums up my sentiment. I absolutely do not want to go through the hell my poor niece suffered.
As a retired CPA (Certified Public Accountant), I am a planner. My wife and I have discussed what we do and do not want at the end of our lives. We have DNRs, advance directives, and supplementary forms that we downloaded from Compassion & Choices which have been notarized. I tell people: If you don’t have your will or trust in order with your healthcare directive in place, and you haven’t been to Compassion & Choices’ website lately, you need to do that. You think you’re going to live forever when you’re young, but you need to be prepared.