When you’re in your 20s, most often the things that concern you are whether or not you’re going to go to graduate school, what do you want to do for a career, who you’re going to marry, and if or when to have kids. In your 20s you have your whole life ahead of you, and you don’t often think of what you will do if you get sick – very sick – because you’re still “invincible.”
When I was 25 a friend was diagnosed with cancer. After being in remission for over a year the doctors discovered the tumor that had been on her spine had now come back and spread to her lungs. While in remission Amy* and her fiancé Justin* decided not to wait any longer and got married. Now she was told she might not make it to her one-year wedding anniversary. The chemo and radiation treatments would likely leave her sterile – if she survived – so she was told she would never have children. Amy had to leave her position at work and in order to be at her side, Justin left his job also, and they moved in with her parents. In a matter of months, her whole life changed.
Amy didn’t want to give up on her dreams – didn’t want to give up on the chance of having a one-year anniversary – so they tried an aggressive treatment approach which left her tired, bloated and with her hair falling out. Her doctors tried everything in their power to cure her cancer. With their help, Amy and Justin celebrated their first anniversary. A few months later, however, they made the decision not to continue treatment. The cancer was too far spread in her body and the doctors could not control her pain. For the last two days of her life they elected for hospice care where she passed away without pain and with her family by her side.
At 25 years old someone who was a few years younger than me was sicker than I ever thought I could be at that age. I had stood by her side and watched her fight, and when she was finished fighting I had to say goodbye. Lucky for Amy there was never a point in the process where she wasn’t able to speak for herself and relay her plans. (She and Justin openly talked about what she wanted and did not want at her funeral service.) But, what if I wasn’t that lucky? What if I didn’t have the ability to communicate? I told my parents the briefest of wishes. (I wanted to donate my organs – if possible, and I wanted to be cremated and not placed in a cemetery.)
A few years later I found out about the Five Wishes – a legal document that, once notarized in the state of Arizona, acts as a living will and will carry out the wishes of a dying patient when they are unable to speak for themselves. So before making wedding plans or career plans, I made arrangements for how I was to be taken care of if I ever needed it.
You can request a copy of the Five Wishes or fill out a copy online by visiting the Advance Directives portion of the Casa de la Luz Foundation website. This living will form is provided by the foundation free of charge.