Don’s journey: My plans to access medical assistance in dying

Personal Stories | March 2, 2018 | Don Kent

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In January, Ottawa’s Don Kent was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with his own mortality at 56 years old, Don plans to pursue medical assistance in dying. In this very special blog series, he invites Dying With Dignity Canada supporters to follow along with him on his journey with cancer and his quest for a peaceful death.

This is part two of Don’s Journey.

I’m a bit of a weenie, I’ll admit it. There I’ve been outed. I hate seeing others suffer and often shield my eyes when my wife watches ER and other medical shows on TV. And, although I have a relatively high tolerance for pain, I have no intention of subjecting myself to unnecessary pain and suffering when I die. We euthanize our pets humanely, but it is only recently that we have started applying humane dying to our own species. I want medical assistance to ease my way out of this life — nay, I demand it!

For many years, I had considered various means to commit suicide in the eventuality that I would need it to prevent undue hardship while dying. Most were violent by necessity to ensure the desired outcome. All methods would be messy and/or traumatic for the person who discovered my body. None were acceptable. Finally, the government of Canada passed legislation enabling medical assistance in dying (MAID) in 2016. Salvation!

A photo of Don and Barb

Don and his wife, Barb, at a friend’s wedding where Don was the best man.

Thanks to the federal Liberals and many decades of advocating by groups such as Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC), some of us are finally able to make that choice and end our lives humanely on our own terms. (That being said, I realize that this fight is far from over as there are still many who are left to struggle to their end despite their desire for MAID.)

As for me, I should now be able to choose the date and location of my death, whether it’s in hospital or at home. Now it is about me, what I want, and how I want to say goodbye to my friends and family. I am about to learn how accommodating the Ontario medical system is when it comes to MAID.

My journey

It was not a huge shock to learn that my condition was terminal when I spoke with my surgeon in the recovery room following surgery. He and I have a wonderful rapport and I trust him explicitly. He is a very caring and compassionate man, and it was obvious that he struggled to present the diagnosis. Although disappointed that the desired surgeries had failed, I had been well prepared for this low probability outcome and was resigned to my fate.

I have been very unhappy with my life recently, particularly as my voice failed me, which made conversations nearly impossible. My request for MAID is imminent as I don’t want to exist in relative isolation for any extended period. I am making plans to visit friends and family in Florida following discharge if my health will allow it and might consider a final cruise if possible.

Statistically, as I mentioned in part one of my blog series, I have six months to one year to live. At the time of writing, the date is February 1, 2018. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock

Now that my end is rapidly approaching, I want to share with you my journey from diagnosis to death and my engagement with the group responsible for MAID here at The Ottawa Hospital. Over the coming months, I hope to share this as the events unfold and hopefully it will be useful to help guide others in their own journey.

I want to thank DWDC for hosting this blog and for helping in getting my story out. Particular thanks to Rachel, DWDC’s digital communications coordinator, for her guidance and editing so that my story is at least slightly coherent.

Until next time….

Dying With Dignity Canada is beyond grateful to Don Kent for inviting us to join him on his journey. We are honoured to help Don share his invaluable insights with all Canadians interested in learning more about the assisted dying process and how they, too, can take control of their dying process.

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