A TGB READER STORY: Love Thy Neighbor, Over the Fence
Cancer Cures? Do Not Presume

My Medical Aid in Dying Drugs

It could not have been a more fitting time for the delivery. My palliative care provider and I were on a video call when they arrived via courier this morning (Tuesday): the medical aid in dying (M.A.I.D.) drugs.

My journey to receipt of this box of lethal drugs began in earnest in May when I spoke via Zoom with a physician at the medical center where I had been treated for cancer and COPD for the past three years. Our conversation began the legal process that culminated in that delivery.

So here they are and it is no small thing to live next to this box of certain death. Not that I would take the drugs on a whim or just because I'm having a bad day. That's not who I am.

But I suspect that more often now I will take up the questions that have both buoyed and bedeviled me from time to time and even, in a couple of cases, made me laugh:

Will I have breakfast on the last morning? If so, how will I choose? Cheerios? Scrambled eggs? Maybe just a muffin with jam? Should I wash the dishes or leave them for someone else?

And what does one wear to one's own death, especially when you know you are dressing for the final time? To whom should I look for inspiration? Anne Boleyn? Marie Antoinette? Lady Jane Grey?

Certainly not a convicted American woman in orange prison garb.

People will be here, less than a handful – three seems right. Should I arrange snacks? Wine? At least some wine, I think.

Do you find this morbid? I don't, and it's not like I control the thoughts that pop into my head. There are bigger, more important issues but these will do for the time being.

Every day now I can tell that my life is waning. There are good days and bad. Sunday night I slept no more than two hours and lost most of Monday to fatigue.

Even with a full night's sleep, I tire so easily that my productive time has been reduced to about six or eight hours.

Quite a lot of those hours is taken up with with medical activities - pills and inhalers at certain times, oxygen, nebulizer, managing refills, telephone calls and home visits with the hospice people.

Not that I am complaining. These and other medical professionals prolonged my life way beyond the year expected when I was first diagnosed, and the majority of it was much easier than now.

I have been with people during the last months of their lives and so far I experience fewer difficulties than they did. And don't think I'm not grateful for both the extra time and the terrific medical people who find ways to smooth my way as much as possible.

Because I really, really like being alive.

My job now is to find a way to make peace with dying. I've come a long way toward that goal in the last three years but the arrival of the drugs puts a whole new reality to it.

Until that box was in my hands, M.A.I.D. drugs were mostly theoretical. Now they are fact. In my home. There for my use. Or not. There is no rule saying I must take them. But I suspect the only reason I will not is if I die in my sleep or get hit by a truck.

I thought you might like to see what the drugs look like. Quite ordinary, don't you think? Until you remind yourself what they are for.

MAIDdrugs2

Comments

I envy you Ronni. You are able to be in control and decide when you would like to go. No worries about your future. Will your money run out, what will happen to you. Will you get Alzheimer’s etc.

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Remind me of you Ronni

"Because I really, really like being alive." That's a sentiment worth repeating. Many of us are glad that you feel that way.

I have no words but am sending hugs.

Although you may pshaw this, your courage, your gutsiness, your common sense, your honesty, along with your appreciation of life in the now, and certainly your humor, I admire and respect a lot. I just hope that when the time comes I can take such an unvarnished look at my end and accept it. Thank you for showing us one way of doing it.

Certainly one of the most unusual things I've ever read, thank you. And since I am happily acquainted with your sense of the ridiculous, I must add that the first thing I thought when I saw the photo was, "Uh-oh, how difficult will these caps be to take off when it's time?"

What Nana said... <3 plus my own thanks.

I marvel at your strength, and appreciate your willingness to share this process. via con dios

Our forever mentor .What a blessing you are, Ronni. Thank you, Marena

Just...wow

Thank you for sharing. Such courage

Letting Go that final time, thinking you for selfish reasons should hold out until November 5th or so, seasons change, and you can possibly see a change in the climate of the country and know it's safer for your friends, son and grandchild, remembering Tuesdays With Morrie, and we have had you almost everyday ... these chats are so meaningful especially during Covid19.
I like the idea of having wine ... and wearing comfy clothes.

Not morbid at all, but as always, so thought-provoking!! How many times can you tell someone how dear they are, even though you've never met them? How many times can you tell someone how much you appreciate them, their honesty, their feistiness, their love for life, and their sense of humor? You are all that and more. Thanks Ronni!
Carol

Ah, Dear Ronni, I had wondered if you got 'the meds' yet. How like you to let us know right away! We cherish you and treasure every day we have with you! Big hugs! Ali

Wendl and everyone...

Re the caps on the bottles. When the pharmacist called me last week (these drugs are not manufactured; they are compounded when a prescription is received), one of the questions he asked was whether I wanted child-proof caps or easy-open caps.

I thought it over for a minute or so and then, realizing there are no children around to poke into cupboards they should not, I went with easy-open for exactly the reasons you note.

You continue to amaze me, Ronni. My reactions to this post are many but include: Wow, I didn't know there would be so many pills! And if it were me, I would choose my comfiest, most favorite clothes to wear and I would eat whatever I want for breakfast. I would definitely have wine, something of a celebratory snack because you will have accomplished something huge, something beautiful, something magnificent (the way I have experienced the deaths I have been privileged to attend).
I am so grateful for you, for your life, for what you share with us. I am in awe of your process and will take so much of what you are teaching me for use when my time comes, if I am blessed with the time to prepare.
I hope you can feel the love and respect I am pouring into these words.
I also hope you can stick around until the election. I think it's going to be a humdinger!
Blessings, dear Ronni.

Ronni, What you are doing now seems real to me, as well—not just what you are planning, but what you are sharing. Profound and yet so mundane. Cheerios? Wine? Perhaps both... Thank you!

Bless you and thank you, Ronni. Have to confess that the photo, as banal as it might appear, did take my breath away for a moment. So very concrete.
But the questions going through your head alongside the bigger issues? Oh, yes. My mind would be busy with those ... partly to push aside the huge looming decision you will have to make, as far off as possible I know, with gratitude for being able to make it I know, and with - I hope - the awareness of all the love I and all of us here will be sending your way, as we do every day.

It’s such a privilege to accompany you along this journey, Ronnie. Thank you. You’ll know what to wear as the time nears. I’d let people bring their own drinks and snacks.
Much love to you.

Hi Ronni,
Thanks always for continuing to share your experiences with us.

I have an app on my phone called "We Croak" and it was created on a Bhutanese adage that "contemplating death five times daily will create happiness." It reminds the user five times a day that he/she will die.

Our American culture is very death-phobic and death-shy. Your post brings to mind how important it is for us to start realizing the nature of our existence, and especially that it will end. I commend you for talking about something so openly that we keep sweeping under the rug. You are providing us a rare service, and I will take it as an inspiration to do the same by not sweeping the matter of death under the rug as it approaches.

Chilling ....
Thank you for continuing to share this deeply personal experience with me/us.
I think of you every day and pray that you're able to see a positive outcome in our elections in November.

I wish I was as well organized. Amazing. The legalities have taken 3 mos. by my count, and that time frame doesn't include your learning curve. Good luck, and to me it seems much like getting off a car on the "Snowpiercer": Life goes on, just you're not on the train anymore.

No, it's not morbid. Your choice is very personal and deserves to be treated as such. Your final "party" should be the period to life you have always sought.

B

♥ ♥ ♥

So very thankful that I discovered you and your blog. You are a blessing.

The “Do not use if seal is broken” tag made me smile. What happens if someone does? And I think that you should leave the dishes. I’m sure you’ve done plenty in your time.

Just looking at those bottles is scary to me. I would of thought, one, maybe two, but good grief what is in that large bottle? Something to make a cocktail? You are braver than I.

Prayers for you if that is OK.

My love is with you.

Will someone with hospice be with you assuming there is a sequence in taking the drugs? Does this insure a quick death? You've be very frank in sharing your journey Ronnie, so my questions are also very frankly asked.

I envy you with the freedom of choice. My state will never be that enlightened...in the South.

Your blog has been my favorite for years and the knowledge and wisdom you have imparted to us is incalculable in its value. Thank you always.

Seriously - child-proof caps?!?
Final breakfast: ANYthing you want. My choice: ice cream with lots of hot fudge sauce. And just leave the dishes for someone else.
A good wine for the attendees, so that they can toast in your honor.
What to wear? again, anything you want, but I don't think you need to bother with shoes.

May you with grace when the time is right.

Dear friend, I hope you hang around long enough to mail your ballot to remove Putin's Puppet and enjoy the feeling of knowing that you struck a blow for decency and right one last time.

I read your blog first thing every morning, and look forward to the wisdom you share so openly.

For me aging has been difficult, and found your blog for the reason I needed some wisdom on the subject. Thank you.

I definitely would have the wine.

Hugs❤️

Just having the drugs can give you peace.

There is no rush.

Maybe you will not even need to use them.

So glad you have them though.

Peace and love to you.

Wine?

Hell, I'd have a martini, in a beautiful crystal stemmed glass, wearing my best jewelry, and perhaps a feather boa, and maybe nothing else.
Except for my satin slippers.... you do have satin slippers, yes?

You cannot know how much your blogs have meant to so many of us who turn to you each morning. Nor how much, how very much we admire you! You live within miles of me, and perhaps next door (I, also, live in L.O.) and yet we have never met. But yes, WE HAVE... in the meaningful expression of your soul thoughts. Mine are inadequate to express the appreciation I feel.... I will let others who are more gifted and more articulate say them for me. But I WILL SAY that I LOVE YOU, so, when you choose to go, go in peace, wrapped in the love and warmth from all who 'know' you through your words. Peace. (and,... "here's lookin at you, kid!")

We had a big party when my grandmother turned 90. I took her shopping to buy a new dress and had scouted the stores ahead of time to find one that had a navy blue polka dotted dress which was what she wanted. As she was paying the clerk, she turned to me and said "Tell them that this is the dress I want to be buried in." So her decision was made two and a half years ahead of time.

All I can say is thank you. Thank you for informing people. Thank you for the light you bring to the world. Thank you for just BEING.

As Ali says, "we cherish you and treasure every day we have with you!"

Hi Ronni,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Glad that you have the option to use the medical aid in dying (M.A.I.D.) drugs. Our state is still slowly moving towards making them available.

I woke up hopeful today after yesterday's news of Kamala Harris being chosen as the VP candidate. She just exudes joy!

Be careful crossing the street!
Love,
--Steve


When a good friend of mine found out he had cancer, with less than six months to live, he decided to approach the process of dying with curiosity. That sounds like exactly what you are doing, from the mundane to the important stuff. Bravo to you.

In your hands,
Your Death.
Available
Almost too available,
"Because I really, really like
Being Alive".

I can't quite wrap my mind around those two concepts - - -
Which exist in mortal juxtaposition.
Describing your journey for us all,
How can we Thank You?
We cannot. Sufficiently
But we can hope that your 'passing'
Comes easily, with
Joy on your lips

Thank you for sharing this. And if we were not living in these covid times I would wrap my arms around you with a gentle hug.
Blessings.

Ronni, my heart is always too full to make sense of what I feel when I read your posts of late. But I will share a passage from a favourite book, which sums up what your life has become, to me, and I suspect to many of us. As the Navajo I grew up among would say, "Walk in beauty, Beloved."

“What do you practice? Whatever you practice, you’ll get very good at it. Some people become more fearful or cynical; some more arrogant or vain; some greedier; some needier; some more combative and close-minded. That’s what’s what they practice.

And then there are are a few who grow as solid as a mountain and as wide-open as the sky. They are strong and yet tender. Steady yet yielding. Powerful yet gentle. You will recognize them because they resemble the earth you can touch and the sky you cannot contain. It’s not that they are superhuman; they are more completely human than most of us ever allow ourselves to be.” ~ "Paradise in Plain Sight” by Karen Maezen Miller

Thank you for your honesty and courage as you share your thoughts. I'm glad you're interested in staying around for a bit but know that you will choose the right time to exit this life and perhaps begin another adventure. I think of you and smile at the gifts you have given to all of us, your readers.

The words of love, appreciation, support...what could I add. I wish for once they could dispense the meds in pretty bottles, painted with wildflowers.
When you lay yourself down with the potion, I hope you have a bit of lipstick on, to symbolize the enormous gift of sharing what you have had to say all these years.

It's beginning to sound so real. I also hope you don't need to take the drugs (4 bottles?? Is there a certain order to it?) and that you go peacefully in your sleep.

But maybe you're looking forward to a party atmosphere? If so, splurge on a great bottle of wine and go out with a bang! Maybe some music? Do you have a playlist?

I hope your son will be part of the small group that accompanies you at the end.

PLEASE Stay with us until after November 3. We need you with us to celebrate.

Loving you.

Wow. Death sits right beside you in a few bottles. Chilling and merciful all at once. I know neither of us are believers, but here is a verse from the Episcopal liturgy that I have always loved:

“‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

And give you peace, dear Ronni.

Never in my life have I read anything more useful, important, interesting or generous than the many things you've shared with us, Ronni. I'm intensely grateful, and unable to gather proper words to express my heartfelt feelings. So here I sit with a flood of tears of overwhelming gratitude for you. Thank you, Ronni.

Absolutely wine, perhaps even champagne.

Yes -- those meds look very ordinary, no skull and crossbones, nothing flashing "warning!!" or at least not from this angle. Amazing the potency of such small and innocuous looking pills and powders.

I can imagine that it's rather comforting to have these in your possession. Every day that you look and don't open may make you a little stronger, knowing that you made it through the day with the means, but not the need to use them.

One day at a time!

A hug from down South. Glad you have them.

Extremely useful information. Gives us all pause for thought. . .I fully intend to use my state's M.A.I.D. (SO glad we have it!) if I qualify when the time comes. Still, there are many hoops to jump through. I feel that agency in dying should be an option, especially to those over age 75 who are mentally competent but physically failing for whatever reason.

At 83 I, too, still really like being alive 98% of the time, but over the past 3 years it has become possible to foresee a scenario where that may not be the case. I have no desire to live to be 100--or even 90--if I have lost the ability to tend to my own personal needs or perform basic "ADLs".

This was a gut punch. The picture, your words. "I really, really like being alive." Oh, sweetness, do you have any idea how dearly you are loved? Peace.

I totally respect that you live in a state where this is a possibility. Having these tools at hand must provide some level of peace in that, you specifically have some control over your last day. And yet, you may never use them.

My Dad wished he'd had this option back in 1994 when his lungs were being consumed. Prior to that, he didn't believe in it. "I think that might not be such a bad thing now that I'm here" were his words.

Wishing you more joy in living as you really really like being ALIVE!

Your frankness and open feelings about facing death are beyond any words I have. I admire you. I am sad for you. I have been gifted with reading your blog for so many years. Thank you so very much.

Ronni, when I first read this in the early morning hours, I had to take some time to accept it. I've written often that I am so grateful that the Right to Die is finally legal in Maine. At last, we can have a choice if we are facing death. Whatever you choose - however you choose - whenever you choose: There is no doubt it will be perfect for you. You have shared your intelligence, humor, energy, and the results of all that research with your many readers. Thank you with all my heart. Still, I am selfish and look forward to reading a bit more before saying "goodbye." Hugs and luv.

No, not morbid at all............all along, I've thought your approach, curiosity, wanting to understand as much as is possible is laudable. And the word fearless just came to mind. You've definitely shared your fears with us, and what you did about them...........the psylicibin (sp) guided trip.........to me, that's about as close to fearless as we get. To go toward the fear, not try to hide from it.
And yes, those containers look so regular! I hope they give you peace of mind. See how thoughtful you are? Thinking of what to serve your guests!
Much love and joy to you.

I'm happy that you have your drugs, and I dread your taking them.
You are a hero and role model for me and I'm perfectly fine with you distracting yourself with the minutiae of what to wear and what to eat or drink because you are now enabled to make the most momentous decision of your life and there can be no do-overs having once made it.
It's been 15 years and I can't imagine anyone who could take your place talking sense to me.

I have a deep respect for life. But I do know about pain and its consequences.

Staring at the drugs on that table top is like looking at a loaded weapon - which it is.

Question now is, what degree of pain will allow you to 'pull the trigger?' Who will be there to decide for you when you can't? What suffering or remorse will we all have once we have lost you?

Godspeed, Ronni. "The Lord is thy shepherd . . ."

Yours is just the most amazing blog I have ever had the good fortune to find. I started reading you years ago when I started looking for some 'Like mindedness" to go with getting older. Your approach to death is the same as your approach to life and aging. Straight forward, no delusions, plenty of humanity....and even some humor.
I don't know any of the other commenters personally but I do know, how ever the end comes we will ALL be there in that room with you.
Jackie M

I am speechless. You are incredible and we love you. Comfort and Peace to you Ronni

Not morbid
.... a reality for you
.... a choice I strongly support you being able to make
.... that said, my mind is reluctant to accept you leaving this earth.

I just discovered your blog a moment ago via a post from 8 years ago about your mother’s 20th yahrzeit. (Today is my father’s 20th.) And now I am reading this, your most recent post... I am glad you have this option, whether or not you use it. It was my parents’ deaths in 2000 that led me to volunteer for Washington’s death with dignity initiative, and if I am ever in circumstances similar to yours, I believe I will ask for a similar prescription... though I don’t know when or even if I’d use it. I’m not religious either (you mentioned this in your 2012 post) but, nevertheless, the first thing that popped into my mind when thinking how to end this comment was this: Godspeed.

This photo and your words unexpectedly caught my breath this evening. I don't think that I am as brave as you. However, what you share, each time, brings more courage to my heart. I have always, for years, benefited from your humor, your knowledge and your wisdom. No other friend could compare, in person or on paper. Were it that I could hand back to you in kind. As always, sending a hug and much love. Thank you for being you.

As someone above says, since you've been so open about all this, I too would like to ask about the process. Can you proceed to just take the drugs (I assume the instructions are there), or do the three people you refer to have to be present as witnesses?

Thank you for being so frank about this. I hope, if *you have the need*, someone is staying with you overnight so that you're not alone. But you may prefer to be alone?

Sensible to opt for easy to open bottles - the child proof ones drive me nuts because I can't open them. Thoughtful to have the choice.

The world will go on with good and evil co-existing, but I take comfort that the good will outnumber the evil in the end. Nothing is new under the sun. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Only now, in my senior years, do I understand what these oft-read sayings mean.

I am privileged to be able to read, and absorb knowledge and experience, from your blog.

God be with you at all times.

Not morbid at all. You have the power to end it all when you know it’s the right time. Maybe owning those little bottles helps to disperse that black cloud of uncertainty and frees up your day for doing what you want to do.
I wish we had the same freedom in the UK but here it’s still a moral and ethical minefield and sadly very little to do with individual health and emotional well-being. xx

Still teaching us ❤️❤️❤️

Dear dear Ronni
Take comfort in all of the comments and the people who love you.

I have known others who have prepared for their passing with such care. I can advise you this: watch your dreams carefully. Even if you don't dream, you may "see" someone that you have not seen before. He or she will be your guide. They are what we call a psychopomp - a person or friendly being that welcomes you to the Great Road of transition. They will answer any questions you have. It is a beautiful thing.

Look in your dreams, or your waking reality, for your psychopomp.

Love you dearest

To me, your thoughts are not morbid. Reading this post, I feel solemn. Aware of the threshold, and an appreciation for my life. If I were religious, I would say I feel the fear of God. A sacred awe. Wishing you peace.

I have no problem with death talk but it still makes me sad. I admire you, Ronni, for your blog and for sharing the end of your life with us. Go to meet that moment knowing you prepared for it with love.

I think you are going about this just right. Thank you for all these lovely lessons on end of life. I had learned a lot from my best friend's death from AIDS years ago, and your shared experiences have only helped me in my search on how to live and die a good life. This a special gift you have given to all of us who follow your blog. You are a very special Lady.

I do hope that you have a peaceful end, surrounded by a few special people from your life. I'd personally opt for a shared meal with them, everyone gets beverage of their choice and have your "wake" over shared food and drink with them. I'd opt to clean up after the meal, maybe having your friends help you to do that.

Dear Ronni, thank you as always for saying it all--speaking to the whole experience. I appreciate the bit of dark humor among everything else. And every post of yours reminds me to be aware of this precious gift of life in the moment, to not take a minute for granted, which I achieve only fleetingly. I'm so glad for you that your illness hasn't touched your mind and heart.

As Jackie says, we'll be with you - all of us.

Ronni,

I only just found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. I can't help but feel a bit sad as I just found you. I wish you all the best and thank you for your honesty. I hope you will take comfort in all the comments and love expressed by the readers here. Even though I just discovered your blog I will be thinking about you and hope that whatever you decide, that the end is peaceful and your thoughts focus on the love that you have given and received and joy you have shared. Wish I could share a hug and smile before you go. Thank you for all the inspiration and wisdom you have left for us.

P.S. I read your post about when you turned 40 and the gentleman gave you 40 tulips to remind you how beautiful you are. My sister turned 60 today. I told her that I wish I could have sent her 60 roses to remind her how beautiful 60 could be, but then I realized and told her that she just had to look in the mirror. Thank you for the help.

Your perspective is enlightening. I am struck with your sharing, your openness to hold two deep truths..your living and preparing for your last moment. I too, feel a privilege of being part of your unfolding journey.

I admire your courage so much. I can't yet put my mind into the frame of accepting my eventual death but this might help some day. Thank you.. And I will miss you when you're gone.

Thank you so so so much, Ronni, for sharing your journey so openly with us. I know you don't know me, but your posts touch me deeply and I really admire your bravery and courage. I think of you often throughout the week and am sending you lots of love.

As always, I have to say, it’s been a privilege. Thank you for the practical lessons, yes I did want to see what lethal drugs look like.

Oh Ronni, what a beautiful essay. Sending you a virtual <>

that's a virtual HUG...

Not morbid.

You are the captain of your ship, the boss.

You decide when and where.

The what and how.

I respect that.

And would want the same choices when the time comes.

Always your Montreal fan.

Ditto to what so many others have said here. Thank you for having the courage to share this with us. I am so glad you have this option; so many do not. May your last days be full of love, peace, and may you be graced with the small beauties of life-----seeing the butterfly flit by the window, the way the sunlight falls, a loved one's voice and face........

Know that we too will gather with you on that day in spirit. Seek Light.........Kyoko

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