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"I feel incredibly lucky, because I've been given the chance to sort things out."
As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, Janet Pfeiffer, who has lymphoma and lung cancer, will be sharing her fascinating story.
Janet took the opportunity to attend the hospice's Day Therapy Unit, which she said was a lifeline for her; making friends, chatting with other patients and staff, plus enjoying the benefits of complementary therapies such as Reiki, which she found benefited, enhanced and stabilised her overall wellbeing.
In the first of her five part blog, Janet, who lives with her daughter Claire and her partner in Barkingside, explains the steps she has taken to prepare for her death and why she decided to do it............
Having had a 'roller coaster ride' of first fighting a very rare type of lung cancer - which necessitated the complete removal of my right lung - I was just getting fit. But then came chemotherapy to treat the lymphatic cancer that had then changed into an aggressive lymphoma. All good I thought when I was told that it had gone into remission, but then, spots on my liver showed the cancer had metastasised from my lung. Still hopeful, I was offered an operation to remove parts of my liver but then, finally, more spots showed and it became clear that it was just going to keep getting worse.
I had the option of more chemotherapy but this would be palliative not curative. Having been there before with the chemo - and while I still felt reasonably well for much of the time - it was a big thing for me to now try to come to the right decision.
With the help of my 17-year-old grandson, who said: "Well Nan, you just need to weigh up the pros and cons; then, if you decide to have the chemo, we'll see you through it again but if you decide not to have any treatment, well, you can just put all of it behind you and not worry about it anymore." So wise for a 17-year-old!
After careful thought, it seemed better to me to opt not to have further treatment and to just enjoy whatever time I had left. It's important to remember that I'm living with cancer, not dying from it. The thing is, I feel incredibly lucky, because I've been given the chance to sort things out and make all sorts of arrangements. So many people die unexpectedly every day who never took the chance to put things in place.
Although I knew that my daughter Claire and her partner Steve were happy for me to see out my life in their home, I was only too aware of how distressing this might become and I didn't want her to always think of her home as 'Mum died in that room', so I asked her to research local hospices so that when the time came, I could end my time there and they would still be close enough to visit me.
She found the Saint Francis Hospice, which was not too far away and came highly recommended. Apart from enjoying the support and seeing people at the Day Therapy Unit at the Hospice, it's good to know that they will be there for me when the time comes for me to be admitted as an inpatient. In the meantime, I have been busy preparing my legal paperwork; Wills - both French and English; Powers of Attorney - one for Health and Welfare, one for Financial Affairs.
I've chatted to both my daughters about what I want for my funeral and most importantly, have even put a 'Funeral Pack' together. Having decided the order of service, poems and, as a standing joke in my family that I must always get the last word in, I wrote my last words and these are written to the poignant rhythm of one of my favourite melodies, Danny Boy, and will be sung at my funeral.
Going back to the legal side of things, I really want to impress on you all just how important these things are to take care of sooner rather than later, in fact, NOW, NOW, NOW; especially if you only want certain things to go to certain people and not to be shared by everyone. So, while you still 'have your marbles' it is imperative that you get yourself sorted with Powers of Attorney; one for Health and Welfare, one for Financial Affairs. These cost £110 each to do, really not expensive. However, if you don't get these done whilst you are still able, having to have one of your family apply to deal with your affairs in the event that you are no longer able to do so will mean expensive court proceedings, extensive expenses for solicitors and/or barristers, plus a whole lot of trauma at a time when you least want to deal with these things.