Saturday, July 25, 2009

Difficult conversations

I can sometimes (often?) be bossy. This is one of those times.

Do you have life insurance?

Have you discussed the conditions in which you'd want to be kept alive?

Have you discussed with your significant other or closest loved one your final wishes for your body?

Please have these conversations now.

Steve and I never expected to be faced with these issues so early -- while our children are so young, while we're still young. You could even say we're lucky to have had the luxury of time to discuss these difficult issues. Steve has been living with one of the deadliest kinds of cancer for more than a year and a half. Some people don't get the chance to consider end-of-life issues in the way we have.

I'm not an expert in any of these matters, but I do want to share what Steve and I have learned, hoping that it might help others.

Life insurance
If you have access to life insurance at work, you should sign up for it. And if it's an option to pay more for more coverage, you should do that, too.

While you're at it, find out if the policy is portable. If you lose your job, are you able to pick up the total cost of the premiums and take the policy with you?

Even if you have a policy through work, consider buying an additional policy through another source.

If you, like me, don't have a full-time job with benefits, please buy yourself a life insurance policy. Mine is with the same insurance agent who handles our home and car. We get a discount for bundling.

Advance directives
Laws vary from state to state, and again, I'm not an expert. But you should at least have a conversation with the person closest to you about under what circumstances you would want certain medical procedures performed.

We have a living will that directs care for each of us in the event that we're unable to make decisions.

Hospice would prefer that Steve have a DNR (do not resuscitate) order on file, but we've elected not to have one yet. Because Steve's tumor is stable, we feel strongly that he should be treated for other complications.

If the tumor begins to grow again and we're unable to treat it with chemotherapy or other agents, we will revisit the DNR status.

Steve would like his body donated to UT-Southwestern for medical research. He hopes that doctors can study samples from his tumor to help others with GBMs -- perhaps develop a cure or vaccine.

We, of course, pray that the donation won't be necessary for a long time. And I guess I thought that when the time comes, I'd just figure out what to do.

We learned today from our hospice social worker, who made a welcome, spontaneous house call, that there's an actual process to will your body to UT-SW. I assume the same is true for a donation to any medical facility. The person who wants his or her body donated needs to sign documents in advance.

So in the next few days we'll complete the necessary paperwork.

When you die, do you want to be buried? Cremated? Organs donated? Whole body donated? Have you shared this with anyone?

These aren't easy topics. But I think they're easier when they're not in the middle of a crisis. And once you've had the difficult conversations and made decisions, you can move on, with a great burden lifted.


Chitnis and Chahal said...

I am sad to read this but as a physician I identify with u. Everyone needs to figure out life insurance needs and advance directives. We did it last year and wrote it down. I hope u don't have to worry about donation for a long time! I am really sad today.

Dusty said...

I'm sorry to hear that you are going through the possibly worst thing in your life.

I also felt very "Bossy" about life insurance and advance directives. I also told all of my friends about the tough questions that I had to ask my husband during the last several months of his life. His battle was melanoma.

We also had two little ones. My daughter was 2 and my son was about to turn 6 when my husband's battle was over.

I will pray for you and your family.


Anonymous said...

I don't think you're being bossy, at all.
I learned the hard way, when my mother died, without a will, that advance preparation is a wonderful thing.
Of course these conversations are not easy, but folks should maybe realize that the best way to honor their loved ones is to honor their wishes.
They can't do that, if they are not made known.
Cherl Hoskins, from Holy Covenant

Anonymous said...

I am so very proud of my loving son, who has decided to continue his fight against this disease by donating his body for research. Right from the very beginning of his life, Steve has been a caring person who loves adventure. His desire to help others is in keeping with the spirit and zest for life he always has had.
Your dad and I love you Steve.