Personal story

Priscilla’s last lesson: ‘No one has the right to stop us from dying’

Priscilla Cole had one last lesson to teach before she died.

A lifelong educator, she had devoted her career to instilling others with knowledge and the confidence to put it to good use. Among her pupils were the youngsters she taught at a private girls’ school in Toronto, the students she counselled at Seneca College, and the two sons she raised as a widowed mother, who are now doctors with grown children of their own.

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Paul's story: My wife's medically assisted death allowed her to "go home"

Kathleen Farago wanted nothing more than to finally "go home." She had suffered for decades with incurable medical conditions before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer on her 65th birthday. Kathy received the news with relief, cheekily calling the diagnosis her "get out of jail free" card. In this stunningly written blog post, her husband Paul Chefurka remembers their love story and his beloved Kathy's final weeks and moments before the peaceful death she had chosen with enormous strength and resolve.

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Sylvia's story: My husband's assisted death was peaceful and completely on his own terms

Dr. Doug Henshaw lived a life full of colour and adventure. He was a brilliant surgeon and a pioneer in life — and in death. His decision to access medical assistance in dying in September 2016 made him one of the first Nova Scotians to choose this newly available option. In this special blog post, Doug's wife, Sylvia, writes about his incredible life and choice.

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Colette’s story: My mother fought for her right to assisted dying. This is her legacy.

Not long after Canada passed its assisted dying law in June 2016, British Columbia's Mary John submitted her request and was approved. But her joy over being able to die on her own terms quickly turned to additional pain and frustration when hospice staff repeatedly obstructed her access, needlessly prolonging her life and her suffering.

After weeks of this active interference, Mary finally got her wish: She became one of the first British Columbians to access assisted dying — if not, the first. Throughout her weeks-long ordeal, she and her family never once stopped advocating for her right to a peaceful death. 

In this powerful blog post, Mary’s daughter, Colette, and her boyfriend, Dean, share how Mary's fight for choice and compassion was able to pave the way for patients and families in her community and province.

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I supported my husband on his assisted dying journey. This is what I learned.

In early November, Jana Buhlmann wrote a powerful entry for the DWDC blog about her husband, Chris, who had a medically assisted death in September 2017. In her follow-up post, Jana reflects on the resistance Chris faced from people in his life who opposed his end-of-life choice — and the lessons she learned about herself along the journey.

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Kate's story: My dad chose a medically assisted death. This is my celebration of his life and choice.

In late June, Mark Alexander died peacefully at his home, surrounded by his close family and friends. The British Columbia man was an avid outdoorsman, globe-trotter, and beer-league hockey player who loved all kinds of physical activity, but loved his family above all else. Despite his zest for life, Mark was always realistic about his prostate cancer diagnosis. After every treatment failed, he made the decision to access medical assistance in dying, and he did so with unwavering conviction. At his Celebration of Life reception, his daughter, Kate, presented a speech about his end-of-life choice. She has graciously allowed us to share her beautiful words on our blog.

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Maggie’s story: Will I be able to make the end-of-life choice I want?

Maggie Bristow can no longer bear to breathe because every breath sets her body afire with pain. The Ottawa woman has fibromyalgia and spinal stenosis, along with a host of other medical conditions, and wants nothing more than to be able to access medical assistance in dying. Physically unable to write her own story, Maggie spoke with Dying With Dignity Canada volunteer Liana Brittain, who helped Maggie put her excruciating pain into words.

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Kathy’s story: My second wife’s assisted death brought peace and joy. But my first wife’s death still haunts me.

Kathy watched Kim, her wife of 25 years, die a "soul-destroying" and traumatic death in 2014 — just two years before Canada passed its assisted dying law.

A few years later, Kathy watched as her second wife, Lynne, was diagnosed with a terminal disease, but this time, assisted dying was newly legal and available in Canada. The contrast between Kim's death and Lynne's was stark, Kathy writes.

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Jana's story: My husband’s assisted death spared him the suffering he feared most

When Jana Buhlmann's husband, Chris, celebrated his 41st birthday, it was a bittersweet occasion because they both knew it would be his last. The very next day, Chris was scheduled to have his medically assisted death. He struggled with the decision, but he knew his grim prognosis and the imminent intolerable suffering on the road ahead. Assisted dying offered him another, more compassionate path instead, Jana writes.

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How one family’s assisted dying story effected real change in their community

In August, Debra Westbrook and her family spoke out in their local newspaper and on our blog about the obstruction their father faced in his months-long struggle to access assisted dying at their local hospital. Less than two months later, that same hospital made a major change to prevent the same thing from happening again. In this special update, Debra writes about how she and her family were able to inspire change in their community — and makes a call for others to do the same.

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