Today I had my first visit from Pierre, one of Burnaby's home care nurses. They haven't needed to visit my house since way back in the summer of 2007, when I was just home from my major cancer surgery and still largely stuck in bed. I'm not like that now. Rather, today was more of a planning meeting.
Few people my age (41) need to plan how we'd prefer to die. Many, whatever their age, would prefer not to think about it at all. However, for me, since I know it's happening pretty soon, I'd rather try to minimize both the burden on my family and whatever suffering I'll have to undergo. That takes some preparation, such as evaluating hospice care in Burnaby or Vancouver, considering when to implement a Do Not Resuscitate order in the future, and so on.
Complaints about Canada's health care system are routine, but I have to reinforce that my experience throughout my cancer treatment, and now after it, has been remarkably good. Because ours is a public system, and I have had excellent support from my extended health plan through work too, my family and I have faced absolutely minimal out-of-pocket expenses. We paid nothing for today's home-care visit, during which the nurse and I talked for well over an hour, for instance.
In recent decades, British Columbia's Ministry of Health has begun to approach death as an integral part of its mandate. I appreciate that, because it gives me a context in which to organize my next year or so. My life today is no longer so directly about trying to manage and beat my cancer, but to take some control over the process of dying that the disease has forced me into. Today was a calm and reassuring part of that process, one that need not be as terrifying as we might assume.