Talking about death

This morning my husband and I talked openly for the first time about the fact I will, in all probability, die before him. Maybe not this year or next, but sometime.It was an immensely liberating conversation.

I was so glad when he admitted that he has thought about the practical implications - getting rid of my stuff, having to move to a smaller property in our retirement village, having a much reduced income and how he will fill his time. (It was a bit shocking that he sees a sports car as a valid replacement...)

None of us looks forward to death with enthusiasm. I certainly fear the process, although actually being dead is ok I suppose. I have children who will miss me, just as I miss my mother who died of OC 36 years ago, but I have always thought that children should recognise and rejoice if their parents predecease them. I accepted some years ago that I am unlikely to see my grandchildren grow up, which is sad.

I am speaking as a nearly 70 year old. I know that the situation is very different for younger women, and would not suggest they should share my feelings. However, I do feel that acceptance of the inevitable and openness with loved ones can be liberating. My morning conversation has lightened my heart, as I no longer need to worry that he hasn't taken the possible reality of the situation on board, and can therefore be more honest with him.

27 Replies

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  • Hi Rachael. Over the last nine years Since I was diagnosed at the age of 48 ive thought I would find it easier to think about death if I were older. Id love to make it to 70 but I probably wont..... so no, being a younger woman I dont share your feelings. Having said that Ive often said to my husband about what he will do when Im gone. A conversation he doesnt want to have and a topic refuses to discuss. No one makes it out of life alive but I do think its easier to think about and discuss if you dont feel 'cheated' out of the time you would expect to have with children and grandchildren etc.

  • I do so agree that I am lucky to have got to the age I am before I was affected by OC. When I see they younger people on the chemo ward I am struck with guilt that they will not have the extra years I have had. I hope you eventually achieve a good conversation though.

  • I feel the same when I see others younger than me. Makes me sad. We'll have that conversation when and if we need to, having said that either of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow lol and I have too much living to do to think about death just yet :). Im not scared of dying just think Id rather concentrate on living :)

  • I was 41 when I was diagnosed 5 yrs ago. I live alone and I agree with everything You have said. I tried to talk about this with my brother but he found it too difficult. I have set up a funeral plan but is something that makes me feel sad. I worry about what will happen to my dog and cats.

  • Hi. I just feel its an easier conversation if you are older. For me I just want to concentrate on life. I dont want to feel sad I want to enjoy the here and now. Enjoy the here and now with yr pets. who knows whats round the corner xx

  • I am not focusing on death I just want to be prepared have some things in place

  • No it doesnt sound like you are. Having something in place sounds good. Im just not ready to do that yet. Im not in denial either just in case anyone thinks I am lol I just prefer to think about life :)

  • It's a hard conversation however a very Very important one to have. I'm so glad that it was a good conversation for you.

    Having just had my beloved mother die very suddenly and unexpectedly in Aug and dealing with sorting out her house, belongings, arranging her funeral, trying to choose her music etc etc I have now written my own order of service and filled a book with all the details of my Incomings and outgoings, my account details and my hubbys too. Where our wills are etc etc too.

    My hubby had already said that he didn't know what accounts I have etc so it made sense to do the lot for both of us. Some people will find this weird but if we'd known what my mum would have chosen herself it would have been wonderful. Luckily she and I had a conversation about what hymns she would like at her funeral last year when her friend died so I knew that at least. I spend lots of hours listening to her classical music before choosing the ones I felt were right.

    I did worry about dying first (and my hubby does worry about that too!) but I am more worried about my hubby not coming home from work as he drives a lot for work., we just don't know what is ahead for any of us do we really?

    It's very important to be honest with our hubby, partners etc and I know I can have a real and honest conversation with him

    Take care

    Clare xxx

  • When I was diagnosed with oc I kept a journal and have written my funeral songs down ... I didn't really think of this as being morbid or anything it just made me feel better ... I value life and have not had the conversation formally but I feel settled in myself at the moment... I guess we take what life with oc throws at us and deal with it as best we can.

  • Hi,It is great that you were able to discuss this between the two of you & very important. Strangely enough I did say to my husband this morning with the diagnosis I had I have a 50% chance of a five year survival, as like you I am 70. I feel well & try not to think that I might only have a certain amount of time left. My husband did not say much when I mentioned these facts as before I believe he thought that I would out live him. Anyway I hope you enjoy the remainder of the w/e.xx

  • What a lovely post, I think my husband would have a new motorbike lol. We have discussed this frequently, my parents were very open about dying for all of my life, I was taken to church to so many funerals as a child, because my Mum knew just about everyone, and it was actually really normal for me. I saw dying as part of living and still do. I was pleased to have my 50th birthday, and I have talked about what will happen and how I want my send off to be, lots of flowers please. I know it is inevitable I will go first even though he is nearly ten years older than me.

    My children is a different story, my eldest won't talk about it, he thinks I'm going to live forever. My second son passed away at 18, so I know life isn't promised, and my youngest is 18 tomorrow and not speaking to me, too busy being molly coddled by her Dad who she wanted to live with. She didn't like me talking about it when I approached the subject and feel like she is removing me from her life now as a self protection action, I could be wrong 18 is not a fun age.

    Although I'm currently NED it is a little niggle in the back of my mind, so we are just going to make as many memories as we can now. Hubby doesn't like to talk about it, but I had to.

    I think it's fabulous that you have had an open discussion and is a tribute to your relationship

    Hugs

    LA xx

  • Children are a whole different ballgame - mine seem to be accepting the situation quite well - they are in their 40s. I have moved from 'oh no, the chemo will cure it' to 'you do know it will come back sometme, I just can't say when' because that is rather what the doctors have done. I do hope you manage to get on useful terms with your soon.

  • we too have spoken like this. it is liberating in a sense it needs to be said...if it can.....

    I too will die before my hubby I am 56 and terminal. Just started my 2nd Load of chemo for some more time.

    We talk openly but it's hard I feel so sorry to be leaving him we have only known each other since school.....

  • Nothing in this situation is good, really! I hope the chemo give you some quality time together.

  • Hi Rachael. I am an older OC patient also. I was 65 when diagnosed a bit over a year ago. The only feelings about death are that I may not see my grandsons grow up. One is 10 and one is 7 and I spend a great deal of time with them. My grandmother was my champion, my cheerleader, my teacher and my greatest love. She died in a fire when I was 13. I strive to be that person with my G's. I want to be remembered by them with warmth and love. I guess as time goes by and I still feel OK, I am thankful for that much more time with them creating memories. I have not had any death conversations with my daughters except when discussing DNR stuff for the hospital. I guess I won't until I get bad news.

  • Before this thing happened to me I guess we both worried about 'who would go first' and who might cope better with being left. All my OC has done is shift the probability a bit in one direction. We talked a bit more about death in the early stages - in fact after my diagnosis it was important to me to make my funeral arrangements (I really thought i didn't have long!). Now we don't talk about it and get on with the business of living - I feel I have a lot of life force in me, yet at times I am sad I don't have the life expectancy I once thought I had. I think it's good you've had this conversation, Rachael, and all part of the learning curve of dealing with our mortality. Once you get through the chemo and make progress you will ease into your 'new normal' and I hope you and your husband have many happy days together.

  • When my wife was having treatment for OC we talked about the 'what if' you die first of I die first etc etc. Whilst I have had far better conversations I can honestly say in retrospect I am so glad we did talk about it. When my wife died 38 months ago she was in a hospice and we didn't talk about it whilst she was there.

    I have often thought back to our conversation about death and how much I think it helped her to come to terms with what at one point was the possibility, and then at another an inevitability. She worried about me as much as I worried about her.

    As much as we could we didn't talk too much about it with our grown up girls because..,....well I guess because they were not living the day to day life that we were and we wanted them to concentrate on living rather than worry too much about Mum dying.

    At the end of the day we are all going to die, the talking about it experience has helped me in so many ways since her death.

    Just want to say to everyone currently going through OC that I wish you and your families the very best and take good care of each other.

  • Dear Rachael Thank you so much for bringing up the subject of death, and in such a lovely way. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks before my OC diagnosis - so I have been confronted by mortality - mine & others - in a way that I never have done before. At times this has felt overwhelming and distressing, but it has also been a wake up call to what my life's about. I'm fortunate - I was diagnosed with Stage 1c3, & am currently NED. However, we never know with this illness, in fact, even if I didn't have cancer, I could be run over by a bus .... I am someone who likes to be prepared, so I am trying to prepare myself psychologically and practically for a recurrence and death. I tried to talk to my partner about this - but he just doesn't want to even begin to think about that. We're all very different - & I respect his choices. One thing that I'm learning to do is to not take things and people for granted in the way that I used to. I am planing to write a letter for all the people I know to thank them for their presence in my life and what about them I am most grateful for. I'm going to send this to close family and friends as soon as I can and also ask for it to be read out at my funeral. Like Choski, I'm also trying to tie up my affairs as best I can, plan my funeral and leave very specific instructions about this for my family.

    Love to you all xxx Sundra

  • Like your idea of writing letters it is something I had not thought about. Thank you I'm definitely going to try and do this I like to be prepared too. I think that the loss of control over my life that came with oc and the treatment was difficult for me ... now that i have being given Ned the ball is back in my court so to speak... I can plan again 😃

  • Hi. I think it's different for everyone. Age may well be a factor but it's not the only factor. I spent my 40th birthday waiting to go for my surgery and found out two weeks later that I had a very rare untreatable type which couldn't all be eradicated with surgery. So I know that I have limited time left.

    However, we had found out five years previous that my partner has a rare genetic condition which means that he also will die early. Whilst he's not currently symptomatic, it is known he will get it and will die earlier than expected.

    So we had already had lots of discussions about later life, early retirement, what I would do after he died, etc. It was a bit of a shocker to have to turn that discussion on it's head so that we suddenly had to work out what he would do after I died.

    We've used our two experiences to completely change our views on life. Having previously been big planners for the future, making sure we had a good pension plan in place, talking about how we'd spend retirement, we completely changed it. Although he still works, I don't. We spend as much time as we can doing the things that we had wanted to do when we finished work. We do things today, not tomorrow. We got married up a mountain because that's what we wanted to do.

    I feel bad about some things. I may die before both of my parents. Whilst I don't want to see my parents die I actually feel bad that they're going to have to see their youngest child die before them. I don't have children, but I can understand that is the last thing that a parent wants to have to see happen.

    I feel bad that I'll leave my partner, who we know will become sick and will need to be cared for. We thought for five years that he'd be cared for by me. So now, what will happen to him? Who will look after him?

    It's awful to think about and for some things I just can't come up the solutions. But then you can plan everything to a tee and find that life has different plans for you anyway.

  • Hi all. I think this is a very real but personal aspect of our diagnosis. It depends on age, stage, rate of rage and general outlook and everyone is different. I have had conversations about my death with my husband, my sons ( one of whom has Asperger syndrome and needs as much clarity and facts as possible) and a very close friend who is a curate and whom I have asked to do my funeral when the time comes. All these conversations were very helpful to us all and mainly made everyone feel more assured, strangely. I don't think I'm about to die but I need to feel I have touched the issue with these who will in all likelihood have to face the fallout.

    Most recently we have been looking at old photos and really appreciating all the stuff we have done, and looking forward to all the plans we have made to make good memories in the coming year.

    Good luck to everyone in dealing with this and thanks for sharing.

    Netti

  • Hi. I was 58 when diagnosed, now 67. In 2013, my younger sister died unexpectedly. I had no idea what she wanted for her funeral, had to find her will, & find out about her bank accounts etc, & had a very cluttered house to clear & sell. A month later, I found out my cancer was back for the 4th time, & is not expected to go away, though I have spent a lot of the time since on chemo or hormone treatments. Although feeling quite well, I felt it was important to talk about death, although my husband was reluctant. In 2014, we updated our wills, & got prepaid funeral plans, to make things easier for each other & our daughters. I now want to gradually get rid of some of our unwanted clutter, & am thinking of making lists of accounts, passwords etc. It's not that death is imminent as far as we are aware, but I just want to try to be reasonably prepared for when the time does come. Meanwhile, I still have some living to do. Di

  • Hey all!

    I have to ask that do you all think that you going to die of ovarian cancer?

    My doctor told me that ovarian cancer dont mean death sentence .

    But sorry to ask but are yours doctors told you that thing?

    Best wishes xx

  • My surgeon assured me I was not going to die, after my debulking surgery, which I thought was overambitious. The truth is we are all going to die of something, sooner or later. For some of us it will be ovarian cancer, for some not. My point is that it can be helpful to accept that.

  • Yes I know. I dont mean to be mean , really dont, sorry if that sounds like that.

    But yes , I know what you mean now. 😊

  • Hi Daniella

    I can understand why you're asking this as we've started a discussion about death. So it's understandable to ask the question 'why are we thinking about death?'.

    I think most people with OC will tell you that their doc has told them that it doesn't mean a death sentence. And certainly there are plenty of people who go through the treatment and survive. Cancer treatment is a very active research area and there are several new therapies in research trials which may benefit even more people diagnosed with OC.

    I have a friend who had all of her treatments for OC, no recurrence and was discharged two years ago.

    I say all that before I say what I was told. I was told that I will die from OC (unless something else happens first). BUT, that is because I'm a very rare case for whom the existing treatments won't work.

    If your oncologist has said it doesn't mean a death sentence they mean it. They have no reason to think that you won't be responsive to treatment.

    I think when you're diagnosed with a serious condition it is quite common to start thinking about mortality. Many people will come through it and live for many more years, but they will still have started to think about death as a result of the experience. I think that's a pretty understandable reaction.

    Rachael, you said in your first post that the conversation about death and the acceptance has been a liberating experience. Although you thought that it may be different at a younger age. I'm now 41 and to have been given a certain answer about my prognosis has been strangely liberating. Am I happy? No, of course not. Am I concerned about stuff? Of course I am. Do I feel cheated? Definitely. I don't know everything about what will happen such as the timing and the specifics, but it has completely changed my approach to life. And that has been liberating to me.

    A discussion about death is something none of us really want to have, but maybe more people should be prepared to do it. It's just probably one of those things that is difficult to comprehend until you're in a position where it is a real possibility.

  • Dear Katfish

    I love your balanced view about your situation - both the challenging and the positive. From your earlier reply you and your husband have taken an amazingly considered response to your incredibly challenging situation. I find it very inspiring to hear how, while fully acknowledging the difficult, you're still able to see something positive in your situation, i.e. completely changing your approach to life which has been liberating. Thank you so much for sharing, what feels to me an incredibly healthy response, which is neither in denial of the situation you find yourself in, nor overwhelmed by it. Thank you. May your beautiful graciousness always be present in your life and continue to permeate others' lives.

    With gratitude

    Sundra

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