Alberta Cancer Foundation

Today is a Good Day

Cancer is not the only cause of death. It’s possible to get too wrapped up in the fact that our time on earth is limited, but it doesn’t hurt to give our human condition a little consideration. The steroetypical bucket lists involve sports cars, mountain climbing and European cities, but these luxurious fantasies usually fall away when patients are facing a grave illness. How would you prepare for death?

  1. Write a personal directive. These legal documents allow you to name a decision-maker or leave instructions to be followed in the event you’re no longer able to make decisions on your medical care for yourself. “To get your affairs in order sooner rather than later is a good idea,” Dr. Sharon Watanabe says. Use it as an opportunity to have some discussion about your wishes.
  2. Find a family doctor. “The family doctor has a key role in end-of-life care. The longer relationship you have with your family doctor, the better. Sometimes it’s easier said than done to find one, but that’s also something that can be done proactively,” Watanabe says.
  3. Don’t wait. “We often encounter patients who were diagnosed and they’ve just retired and were looking forward to doing all sorts of things,” Watanabe says. “If there are things you really want to do in life, don’t put them off. You never know what’s going to happen.”
  4. Talk about it. “Hold kitchen-table conversations around values,” Bert Enns says. Family members will find out a lot about each other and their wishes.
  5. Reflect. “I’m not suggesting that we fixate our thoughts on death, but that we reflect on it in a personal way, whether it’s going to a funeral and thinking, ‘What would I want people to say if this was my funeral? What would be the things I would want to leave behind?’ ” Dr. Shane Sinclair says.
  6. Recognize this could be the last time. “When I go in and see someone, I always think that this could be the last time I see this person. It’s something I take home with me. I try to end conversations in a way that I feel OK about in the event that I don’t get to say goodbye formally to that person. It can be as simple as eye contact or giving a hug,” Dr. Cheryl Nekolaichuk says.