I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC’s morning news show The Current about advance care planning and the Speak Up campaign. The show also featured Anna Craig, a young woman with Stage 4 breast cancer and how she, her husband and her young children are coping with the fact that she is dying.

It was a privilege to meet and share the studio with Anna. Her story is a sad but very true reminder that death is not always age-related, and that illness can strike us at any time in our lives. Anna spoke so articulately about the challenges around talking about the end of life with others, and how friends and family find it difficult to have these conversations with her. “It’s hard to talk about dying when someone’s in the middle of life,” she noted on the show. Instead, her family and friends want to talk about ‘not giving up’ and about her ‘battle’ with cancer.

Anna’s reality, however, is that she will not win this battle – and feels that the ‘fight’ approach devalues her experience. Instead, she wants to have conversations that ensure that others understand her situation and what’s important to her. “I don’t want the last part of my life to be fighting,” she says. “I want to be able to have dignity, to feel empowered.”

What about you? What would be important to you if you were facing Anna’s future? Perhaps one very important lesson we can all take away from Anna’s experience is her observation that, while these conversations are very difficult to have, they are critical to ensuring that we have the quality end of life experience that we want – and deserve.

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Louise Hanvey is the Project Director for the National Advance Care Planning in Canada Project Speak Up: Start the conversation about end-of-life care, with the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA).