My Nonprofit Reviews
Moira A H.
Review for Compassion & Choices, Littleton, CO, USA
While living in Washington DC more than 20 years ago I received a call from my dad, who lived in Oregon with my mother. He normally never called, leaving the long-distance chats to my mother, so I knew something was very wrong. Tersely he told me my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She wasn't ready to talk to me at that moment but she would call me soon. A couple of days later she called. We talked and she told me she was going to fight it all the way, that she was willing to be a guinea pig for research and that she was feeling strong. She then ended the call with words I have never forgotten. She said, "I'm not afraid of dying. I'm afraid of the process of dying."
Four years later she had fought the good fight, had been a guinea pig for research, had done experimental treatments at both NIH and Cleveland Clinic, and nothing had changed the outcome. She was dying. She knew it and she wanted control over the remaining days of her life.
As my family frantically tried to make sense of her inevitable death and I web-searched late into the night looking for answers, I found Compassion and Choices. Within a week they had worked with her and her doctors to arrange for her to take control of the end of her life. She followed all the steps and her signature was on the appropriate paperwork. It was unrecognizable, bearing no resemblance to the tidy finishing-school signature of her past, but it was there and with it came some serenity. She felt as if she had been able to do one thing where she was calling the shots. She would get to choose how and when the end would be. As she signed it, she told us she might never use it, but it gave her the option should she choose.
In the end, she never had a chance to make that decision. She went downhill too fast in those last weeks, but I know during her remaining alert hours she had some small sense that she was managing her destiny. She died at home with her family around her and I have never forgotten how much it meant to her to have that option. Compassion and Choices has often said the right to choose dignity in death is like an insurance policy. Many people never end up using it, but what it provides is a choice that allows those at end of life who have lost so much dignity and control over their daily existence to feel they can control one small but immeasurably significant part of their life. To that end, I have decided not only to support Compassion and Choices on a yearly basis, but to bequeath a sum to the organization in my will. I hope you will consider doing the same.