Eilish Colclough, 44, was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer five years ago, and despite experiencing some dreadful treatments, she wants to continue her treatment so that she can spend as much time as she can with her five children. She, as we do, believes it should be up to the patient to make the decisions about their end of life, supported by the best possible care available.
The second featured patient is Bob Clements, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer two years ago at the age of 28. After his latest operation last year Bob decided not to have any more treatment. He has decided to enjoy what time he has left, and knows that when the time comes he’d like to die at home, surrounded by his family.
Melanie Sibley is the third patient interviewed. She is 46 and was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2005. Melanie was given a prognosis of less than a year, and she found relief in knowing how much time she had left. Despite the gruelling treatment, nothing has stopped her wanting to survive. Melanie has been receiving a new treatment which has given her ‘extra life’.
While each of these stories are difficult to read, and the decisions taken unique to their situation, it is comforting to know how much control each patient is being supported to take over their care and treatment. In my view the important thing about end-of-life care is not the decision being taken, but the fact that the decision is being made with all information available, and ideally the support of loved ones and healthcare professionals.
I believe that as a society we are getting better at talking about death and dying, and this article shows that a positive consequence of this is that many people are fully involved in decisions about the treatments they do and do not receive at the end of life. However, we still have a long way to go. A recent survey found that although the majority of people know what they want at the end of life, just 3% have made an Advance Decision to make sure that those choices are formally recognised by healthcare professionals if they become unable to communicate their wishes.
Compassion in Dying can support people in making Advance Decisions and in ensuring they are at the centre of decisions made about their end of life. For help and support from Compassion in Dying call 0800 999 2434 or www.compassionindying.org.uk.