While Mat was in the hospital, one of the residents came in to clarify his wishes about treatment.
"Are you a Do Not Resuscitate?" he said.
I was horrified. In the abstract, you might think a nice cardiac event could be an easy way out of a terminal illness. I might have thought that myself, before Mat's prognosis became, well, terminal. That was when Mat's cancer returned for a second time, in late August 2007.
Now, almost 20 months later, there have been a lot of really bad days, but there have been more -- not a lot more, but more -- days that were mostly good. And what if mostly good days only came along once a week? Once every two weeks? I suspect I still wouldn't want Mat to be a "Do Not Resuscitate." (I'm not completely sure how Mat feels about the once-every-two-weeks scenario, but I'm pretty sure we're on the same page about the other one.)
One of Mat's doctors told him in January that she couldn't tell him how much longer he had to live, but that it was months, not years. And furthermore, some of those months would be low quality. Even knowing that, would I want Mat's life to end months early because of a random glitch that resulted from a straightforward surgery to correct a bowel obstruction? We have two kids, ages 4 and almost 8. A few more months is a long, long time if you're four years old.
I've thought about living wills and advance directives for end-of-life care before. Mat and I both have a living will, written about fours years BC (before cancer). But I would guess that most people who think they know how they want to be taken care of near the end of their lives are wrong. I don't know if people can fully understand the implications of their directions until they've been there, or at least pretty close to there.
I've been pretty close to there, and now I know.