Kevin’s story: My dad’s experience with MAID

Personal Stories | November 6, 2020 | Kevin Keystone

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A photo of Jay Keystone surrounded by his family

My dad was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer in the summer of 2018. He was 75. We understood that the chances of successful treatment were slim, but he went for it anyway. As the treatment failed and his condition worsened, we all prepared ourselves.

During the next twelve months, the tumor growing from his colon obstructed it completely, requiring a colostomy. Later, as the cancer metastasized to his liver and obstructed his bile ducts, he needed a second ostomy. Eventually, his gallbladder failed too, requiring a third. My dad, a doctor of forty-plus years, was clear-eyed. 

“I lived a good life,” he said. “I did all the things I wanted to do, and helped a lot of people. Now, I want a good death.”

In a few more weeks, according to his care providers, the cancer would spread to his brain. He would lose consciousness, slipping into a coma. From there, it could be days, weeks, or agonizing months as we would wait for his body to shut down. That wasn’t what he wanted, not for himself nor for us. He chose MAID instead.

On the appointed day, my brother arrived early to give him a clean shave with hot towels. My dad wore his favourite button-down shirt—blue, to match his eyes—and a sporty bowtie. We each had a chance to say a private goodbye. 

“I hate to say it, Dad,” I said, “but circumstances notwithstanding, you look great.” He laughed. My dad had a renowned sense of humour. I was glad that, in those final precious moments, we could still share a laugh.

We gathered, holding his hands and each other. He told us he would love and miss us, and in the Jewish tradition, we said the Shema. His last words, strong and confident, were, “Go for it.”

Days later, at the house of mourning, a visitor shared that her father-in-law had died suddenly of a heart attack. It was, for her family, a shocking and traumatic fracture. She lamented: “We had no chance to say goodbye.”

My dad’s death was sad, but it was not tragic. Yes, he should have lived longer and in good health, but cancer put an end to that. Instead, with MAID, he had the death we all hope for: empowered and with dignity, surrounded by love, and a chance to say goodbye.

In May 2020, Kevin’s brother, Dave Keystone, performed at a live storytelling event in Toronto where he shared the story of living through the MAID experience with his dad. You can watch the full performance on Youtube here

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