I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, in August 2018. I had already been dealing with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), a platelet disorder, and worked with a hematologist-oncologist since 2002. In the Spring of 2018, I thought I had suffered a heart attack and I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. At the hospital, an EKG and thorough blood test were performed, and the information was provided to my hematologist-oncologist.
My hematologist-oncologist recognized that the results meant I had stage 1 multiple myeloma so I was able to begin treatment immediately. I still continue to receive chemo now and I’m fortunate that I have a good oncologist and that the side effects have been tolerable.
As a retired hospice chaplain, I’ve seen terminally ill people fight to the bitter end, and I see no reason to do that. For many years, my primary focus as a chaplain was to work with those infected with HIV/AIDS. I found that there are options to dying and that a painful end doesn’t have to go on and on and on. My experience as a chaplain made me realize, I have options.
I’m 86, have lived a good life, and I am absolutely opposed to implementing extraordinary medical efforts to extend my life. Making the decision to fight and live as long as I can regardless of the pain is not particularly useful. I don’t see any reason for that. I’ve talked with my partner, Keo, and my son and daughter about avoiding certain medical efforts at the end of my life. They all know that if I get to stage 4 I will definitely not try any further curative treatments; I will simply say “no thank you” and say goodbye to my family and friends.
I accept that some people do not support medical aid in dying as an option. However, I don’t believe lawmakers should prohibit their constituents from making whatever decision is right for them. I believe it takes courage to die the way you want to, rather than die the way people think you ought to. For me that’s dignity. Making decisions around one’s own death or how someone wants to die takes courage. It’s not simplistic and it should be a decision someone has the right to make for themselves.