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What To Consider Before Writing Your Living Will

April 12th, 2016 |
Recurrence & Metastasis

by tealelfs | Fighter: Cervical Cancer    Connect


Have you written a living will? Although it may be a scary thing to address, it’s important to talk about and consider having. Try not to put it off. Read more below.

A living will. No one wants to think about it, but everyone needs one. When I was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012 I was asked if I had a living will. I did not. I underwent a fourteen-hour surgery without a living will. I wish the doctor had pushed a little harder and suggested I create one, not because it would have come into play during that procedure but because I now know how important it would have been if something went wrong. Since then, I have undergone countless procedures. Each time I have been asked if I have a living will and each time I have been ashamed to say that no, I do not.

A picture popped up under my Facebook memories. It was a picture of my friends and I out celebrating me being officially cancer free. As I looked at the picture it brought mixed emotions. It was a great memory, being able to celebrate, but it also brought frustration. A few months after the picture was taken I found out the cancer had returned, again. Seeing this picture on Facebook was just the push I needed- I needed to get my living will in order.

I started out by researching exactly what a living will was and why I needed one. I always assumed that if I were unable to speak for myself that my spouse would be the individual to speak for me. In my state, that is not the case. In my state my family members also have a say in what would happen. I have been very open with my husband about what my wishes are if I am in the position where life prolonging procedures would serve to prolong the dying process. We have discussed in depth my wishes. I never thought my parents would be able to come in and override what my husband was saying.

In Indiana the process of developing a living will declaration was fairly simple, there was a great resource which has the document ready in a pdf format. I simply had to fill out a form indicating my wishes and have it witnessed by two friends. I found the guidelines vary by state, here are two great resources: requirements for most states and PBS references. These sites provide information for how to prepare a living will or advanced directive with links for state requirements.

After creating my living will I first scanned and emailed it to my husband, two friends, and two siblings. I wanted to ensure that the document was accessible through multiple people. I also emailed it to my gynecologic oncologist’s office. As I go to treatment and to my other specialist’s offices I will take copies to put on file.

If you’re ready to make your living will, here’s what you need to do:

    First, determine what your wishes are related to life prolonging procedures which would serve to only prolong the dying process. Determine if you want to receive these procedures or not.
    Secondly, research what the legal requirements are in your particular state or country.
    Next, create your living will.
    Finally, ensure your living will is on file with all of your medical professionals and copies are provided to your close family and friends.

Learn from my research- don’t assume that your spouse will be the one to automatically get to decide your medical wishes if you are unable. Don’t put your spouse or any family members in that position. Make the decision for yourself.

My living will declaration has been completed now, although at the age of thirty this isn’t something I wanted to think about , I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The next time I go in for a medical procedure I don't have to face the judging eyes when they ask me if I have a living will and I sheepishly tell them no. Now I can proudly tell them yes, I have created a living will and I'm taking matters seriously.

Have you written your living will? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Erica is a thirty-year-old wife, mother, and teacher who is living her live with cervical cancer. She was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2012 at stage 1b2, in April 2014 she was diagnosed with an aggressive recurrence, again in May 2015 her cancer returned. Although she is in a treatment to slow the progression of her cancer there is no cure in sight at this time.


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