In early January of 2018, at the age of 65, my very good friend and mentor, Jan, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis came unexpectedly and was a complete shock to us all.

Two of us became primary caregivers to Jan until her family arrived from Ontario, which wasn’t until late February.

The disease progressed rapidly, and the pain became unbearable. Different strategies for pain relief were offered up but did not provide relief. Jan refused to try radiation or chemotherapy as she felt the side effects of the treatment would rob her of the ability to spend whatever quality time she had left with her family and close friends.

We became aware of the availability of MAID by accident, when a physician friend spoke about it idly over tea one day. Jan’s care team did not offer MAID as a potential option because, as we were told later, the patient is required to ask about MAID in order to receive information about it. I struggle with that to this day.

As Jan’s pain progressed she decided MAID was the best option for her and she chose her date. Jan was a planner and she told me that as soon as she settled on a date for her procedure she felt like she still had control over her life and a great weight had lifted. She was then able to schedule time to have those last visits with the people she loved.

On Jan’s final day, 16 of us gathered at her home for our final farewell. Jan’s husband, two adult children and their two dogs were all cuddled together on the bed and love filled the room. Each of us took turns sharing final words. We laughed, sang, and cried together. When the medical team arrived, steps for the procedure were explained clearly to Jan, who was able to provide her final consent.

One of our close friends in attendance is Indigenous and she played a hand drum and sang the woman’s warrior song in her native tongue as the first dose was administered. The doctor in attendance looked up in astonishment as the music began, and a tear rolled down his cheek.

In May of 2014, my mom died a painful death over a period of 10 days due to kidney failure. MAID was not an option back then. I was able to be with her during that time and the memory of watching her suffer will remain with me for the rest of my days.

On March 7, 2018, my dear friend was lovingly “drummed out” while her family and closest friends looked on. This was one of the most beautiful experiences I have had in my life.

It has become my goal to tell as many people about the option of MAID as possible in order to prevent the type of suffering and death my mom experienced. The medical teams in BC may not be able to inform people about MAID, but I sure can.

In 2018 we did not have the type of support provided by MAID Family Support Society. There was no one to provide emotional support to us or really prepare us for what was to occur.

It is my honour, and in memory of my dear friend, to share this story and the beauty it contains and to provide support and a compassionate listening ear to people considering MAID.