Bill Baum and Barbara Chour were childhood sweethearts. At eighteen, however, Barbara decided to leave Bill behind in Wisconsin to travel the country with a touring ice skating show.
After four years with the group, Barbara returned to Wisconsin with plans to move to California. She asked Bill if he was interested in moving with her, but he decided to stay in place to complete his engineering degree. Barbara left and said, “In 40 years, let’s find each other and see what we look like.”
Barbara moved to California, got married, had two daughters, and started teaching ice skating locally. That marriage ended in divorce, but then Barbara was married again. Bill had also married, and so it seemed the two would never reunite.
Forty-two years after leaving Wisconsin, Barbara returned for a high school reunion and called Bill. The timing was finally right; Barbara was once again single and Bill was as well. The two were available to give this relationship another try, “My getting together with Barbara at age 64 can only be seen as the fulfillment of a love story.” Their love blossomed quickly and by the end of Barbara’s trip back to Wisconsin in 1993, Bill decided he would join Barbara in California.
In 2013, after a concerning physical decline, Barbara went to see her doctor and she was soon diagnosed with lymphoma and referred to an oncologist. Barbara started treatment immediately and endured 14 chemo treatments to get her cancer under control. Fortunately, the chemo allowed her enough health to enjoy her life for the next couple of years.
In March 2017, however, Barbara found out that she had just a few months to live. That’s when Barbara decided if things got bad that she would avail herself of her option of medical aid in dying. Bill and Barbara had open and honest conversations about the option, and Bill was 100% onboard for whatever path was right for Barbara.
The couple soon discovered that finding a doctor willing to prescribe was not simple. Barbara’s oncologist was unwilling to prescribe and did not provide a referral. At that time, Barbara talked to the palliative care team at her hospital and enrolled in hospice. Fortunately, although her doctor was unwilling to help, a nurse from the palliative care team knew of a doctor within the same healthcare system who would.
Soon, Barbara received her prescription. She held onto her aid-in-dying medication for three months. After months of undergoing unbearable suffering, both mental and physical, she finally decided she was ready to take it.
Barbara’s hospice doctor and nurse assisted with the preparation of the medication and were present at the time of ingestion. Bill shared, “It was helpful for me that the doctor and nurse were there. I was at her side through her end-of-life experience and their assistance helped me get through that emotional day.” It was just the four of them together that day, and Bill hugged Barbara as she peacefully passed 45 minutes after ingesting her medication. After 24 years of their resumed love and living together, Barbara died at the age of 86 on September 1, 2017.
After Barbara’s death, Bill returned to Wisconsin. He hopes that sometime soon the lawmakers in his home state will pass a medical aid-in-dying bill. “I have experienced the woman who I have loved all my life rationally decide to take this medication to end the prolonged suffering that she faced. And, I would like this option available for me, just as the law in California allowed it for her.”