The process of dying can be awkward, unpredictable and messy. We all like to have some control of our lives but this last final phase keeps us all on our toes. For many people this phase of life, is approached reluctantly with fear. To face dying, makes us face our own mortality and we begin to question ourselves, ideas and the world around us. For most of our lives we plan, we have goals, we take steps to reach those goals. For many this is an orderly process, and we take pride in accomplishing our goals. Dying is uncharted territory. We might have an idealized goal of a peaceful death surrounded by family at home, but the path to that goal is not one we have experience with.
As we prepare to care for people in the final stages of life we need to help them have peace with their decision. A personal choice of this magnitude cannot be dictated. Many people who come to terms with their disease often opt for comfort measures, in hopes that they will no longer be plagued by symptoms of the disease, multiple doctor’s appointments, medications and the side effects. This individual choice is what is right for that person on their own schedule.
The good news about coming to terms with ending aggressive treatment is that there is some rest and the energy that was spent on treatment, can now be focused on what the patient would want. Possibly it is just being home with loved ones, resting, have conversations at ease, and being with familiar surroundings. Patients don’t often come to a decision about ending treatment abruptly these are usually well thought out. When the body will not cooperate with your mind often this is the time that a mindset change.
Many time patients feel they are quitting, giving up, or their loved ones want them to pursue treatment for a little while longer. Whatever the reasons in the end patient and families want to know they did everything they possibly could. People do not want to be left behind thinking that there was one more thing they could have done that would have changed the results. It is hard not to think about ourselves, but the focus should remain on the patient offering peace and dignity, respecting their choice.
As we know there are no cure for Mesothelioma, but we continue to try every day. We are aware that 3000 patients are diagnosed a year and 2500 dies from asbestos related disease each year. Each of those people are unique with their own life experiences, influencing their decisions on treatments and dying. As the years progress we continue with more treatment options and are learning to treat symptoms of the disease better. In the end it reminds us of what asbestos can do and still continues to do. For the people who continue to bravely fight this disease, get involved with clinical trials, have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and all the other procedures you endure thank you. Without you the treatments would not be as advanced, and we know so much more today than we did 2 years ago. Someday this disease will hopefully have a cure and people will no longer suffer, and all deaths will be where the person wanted, and the way they wanted.