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Deborah Flynn: Better Options

Deborah Flynn is an online business owner in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

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Dave, my husband and soulmate of over 40 years, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in November of 2012. Shortly after diagnosis, he underwent surgery for a life-saving procedure. He then had six weeks to heal before his first round of chemotherapy.

Over the next two years he endured five rounds of chemotherapy and two other surgical procedures. He had countless CT scans, pet scans, and consults at Dana Farber, Mass General and Yale New Haven. He was hospitalized for life-threatening infections. We sought trials and opinions from doctors at the National Institute of Health and the Cancer Institute. We discussed, planned, worked through, and were counseled on what to expect and how to “stay strong” through this terminal diagnosis.

Throughout it all, Dave worked at his weekday job and played in the local band Greylock. They played to thousands of fans at events such as Live on the Lake and at many other local venues. Most people who came to listen never knew he was sick.

Death with Dignity advocate Deborah Flynn with husband Dave

Deborah Flynn with her husband Dave

When neuropathy hit his hands and feet from the chemo drugs, he taped guitar picks to his fingers so that he could power through and play his music he loved so much. He was a fighter and gave it his all. He was valiant, brave and determined.

Dave persevered and stayed positive, wanting to live and die with dignity and grace. He loved life, his family, and his friends. In January of 2015 we were told he had come to the end of his options.

It is a travesty that this wonderful soul who had fought so hard to die in the same dignified manner in which he had lived had no better options.

Dave was a strong man with a vibrant, full life, and when cancer took that life away from him, he made it known that he didn’t want to continue in pain and the ensuing onslaught of the disease. Nor did he want his family to suffer further as he faced a slow and painful death. Unable to continue treatment or to ingest fluids and nourishment without pain, we entered hospice that same January.

After spending good quality time with his family and dear friends, saying his goodbyes, his only dying wish was that he could maintain his dignity and grace as he passed. Although hospice helped me care for him so that we were blessed to have that time together, his last weeks were anything but dignified or comfortable. I tried everything, but there was nothing anyone could do. I asked his primary physician, I called friends in the profession, and no legal, no humane way was offered. At best, I medicated him to numb the painful decline.

David died on March 30 after many nights of praying that he could go peacefully. He did not. There are many families who struggle needlessly for much longer.

It is a travesty that this wonderful soul who had fought so hard to die in the same dignified manner in which he had lived had no better options. The right to die choice is just that. Supporting legislation of the right to die would give terminally ill patients the option to pass gracefully on their own terms, while allowing others to not use this option if they choose to do so. We should all have the option to “go gently into that good night.”

If you agree, write to your friends, the newspapers, social media, your state representatives, your senators, and anyone who will listen. There is no one among us who can safely say that they would be unaffected by this outcome.

(November 2015)

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