Follow-Up on Monday's Death With Dignity Post

Settling Into My End Days – Or Die Trying

(Sorry about that headline; I couldn't resist.)

When the medical people say you are now eligible for hospice and for medical aid in dying (MAID), you know the end of your time on Earth is nigh.

Not that I haven't known of that outcome for these past three years, but when those two services are on offer, any wishful thinking one might have indulged in is wiped away.

A large majority of pancreatic cancer patients – nearly 90 percent - die within a year of diagnosis. With the help of my excellent doctors and nurses, the universe granted me two additional years of golden time most of which, if you don't count chemotherapy side effects, was not too much different from life before cancer.

It got to be almost funny sometimes when whatever new health issue turned up, I couldn't figure out if it was cancer, COPD or old age.

So I have no complaints about the place in life where I have now landed. Except this: what I said above about having known the eventual outcome of my disease from the beginning and the implied acceptance in that statement? Maybe not so much.

I suspect I've been fooling myself or, if I had made peace with my death as I thought I had (with a hefty dose of help from psilocybin), it slipped away while I was enjoying those extra years.

My first clue to that was a bit more than two months ago when a variety of body aches began popping up regularly. It was not long before they became a daily routine. Certainly it occurred to me then that the cancer was on the move but I shoved the thought aside and took another ibuprofen.

The second clue turned up several weeks ago when the oncologist told me on a telephone visit that my recent CT scan was “not bad.” He said it in an uncharacteristically flat tone that told me it actually was not good news.

As I had done in the past, I could have read the visit summary doctors post to my online account within a day of our meeting but I skipped it this time and tried not to think about what he said. That wasn't wildly successful and the pain continued too.

On Tuesday this week, I spent an hour on a video visit with the man who has been my palliative care provider for more than a year. I like him enormously. He is the one who told me I am now eligible for hospice and MAID, and we discussed how that will work in general as we move forward together.

In future now, we will meet every two weeks instead of monthly. I feel safe with him.

What I do not feel is at peace. As I look back today at the early days of this journey, I am surprised at what now seems like arrogance in thinking something akin to, “I've got this. I can handle my end of days.”

Yeah. Right.

I've spent some of the time since the Tuesday video visit talking with a handful of friends I am totally comfortable with but trying not to lean on them too hard.

Most strongly, what I feel now is sad. So achingly sad at the thought of leaving. To make it even more poignant, this is a most beautiful spring season here. I could be convinced that that is just because I've become a short timer but what difference does the reason make. I'm still sad.

Could I be at the beginning of working my way through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five (or is it seven?) stages of grief? Obviously – see above – I've had time with denial. Some unfocused anger has erupted. Just this week, the effin' ants returned to the bathroom. The whole outdoors isn't enough for them?

It could be that I am too pragmatic to bother with the bargaining stage of grief but who knows. I'd like to skip the depression stage too and go straight to acceptance.

I was so certain I had this end of life stuff under control. It's going to be awhile.


This whole situation SUCKS. I like to think of myself as a wordsmith , but somehow I can find no words to express the "aching sadness" reading this post has brought.

I can only echo others in Holding you in the Light.

Do consider the advice above fron the RNs. We all want you to enjoy this lovely Spring. Mother Nature us such a show-off—and she did this all for you!


How strange it would be if you, who cares so much about all the goodness in this world - fairness, beauty, love, humor, compassion - found it somehow easy to leave it. That day will probably come, as the experienced hospice worker says, but until then this amazing planet is yours as much as anyone else's, and you have a right to love the gorgeous Portland spring and all the rest as fiercely as you can.

We care about you because you're part of the goodness in our worlds. We're right here.

You haven't been in my life very long - maybe 4 or 5 years, but your PRESENCE has been such a blessing - you inspire me, you teach me, you comfort me, you make me laugh - and you make me cry. Thank you so much for giving so much for so many years for so many people. Love you as a wonderful human being.

All of the above, to the nth degree.

I've been with you since New York days (as Arby) and have so many familiar names here all expressing their gratitude for you, as I do. My words are here in one way or another. My wish is that you can rest in the knowledge that you have given so much to so many and somehow given a thought, a laugh and understanding to that many trying to ind our way through this journey of getting old. You can know you will be missed! There are no words I can add but I do send you my wishes for strength for you, and Blessings. Your sadness is shared in ways beyond imagining.

Thank you Ronni for sharing your life with us with such honesty.

Ronni, I hope you can see the statistics of how many are reading your posts. (I assume you can, but I'm not a blogger so I'm not sure.) I want you to know how many, like me, are reading this post and feel such sadness, even if seldom or never commenting. Previous posters have been more eloquent than I can be.
I'm a relatively recent reader, now inspired to go back to your older posts. Your honesty is breathtaking. And you, your blog, and your blog readers, continue to educate! I'm very happy to hear that one can accept hospice help and be "re-certified" after 6 months.

This is an utterly trite phrase - but like many cliches, so true - thank you for sharing.

Ronni, I want to add a few words to the other comments of your wonderful community. How odd that this is the most mysterious experience up ahead, yet almost banal in its commonality—every single living thing goes through it. Aging begins to prepare us for it. Both are unavoidable (if we're lucky enough to reach old age), and the only thing we have any say over is how we hold that experience. I'm several years behind you but still of an age where, if I were to die now, it would not be considered premature. You have been such a pathfinder, such an important model for me, in your honest, insightful, intelligent, brave, often-funny, and poignant account of what it's like to be old, to have a serious illness and recover from it, and look ahead to the unknown with the awareness of what will be left behind. There is grace in this, and you have made such a difference in my life. Thank you, dear friend.

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