The support we had when Mom was dying was second to none. The group of people who rallied round and made sure that Mom’s wishes were met, were angels to her and to us. Mom found it difficult to accept that she was terminally ill, until the last eight weeks or so of her life. She was helped by hypnotherapy, to come to terms with her situation and to face her options for the end of her life.

Once Mom had confronted these choices, the remainder of her life had real purpose and meaning. We all knew our roles and how to deal with questions from friends and family. We found a new openness and honesty between us. No subject was too difficult to talk about. Mom decided she wanted to die at home, with no medical intervention, other than pain relief as required. Her GP helped Mom to sign a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation order, which meant that if for some reason either Mom or Dad panicked in the night and called an ambulance, the crew would not be obliged to take her to hospital.

Mom’s last weeks were spent downstairs on a profile bed on oxygen, the summer days drifting in from the garden, her glorious flowers all around her. We had help with her care, to make sure she was always clean and comfortable. We had weekly meetings to ensure everyone in the team understood Mom’s wishes.

During this period of calm and insight, Mom wrote beautiful letters to all her nearest and dearest. It must have been very difficult for her to do this. I imagine her shedding tears over the words she wrote.

On Mom’s last day, her breathing became laboured. She struggled with the oxygen tube, she was restless. Although she wasn’t in pain, I do think she was distressed, knowing that the end was very near. The community nurse told us that changes were taking place in Mom’s body, which meant that she was very close to death. The nursing team wanted to increase Mom’s pain relief using a syringe driver. Mom had decided she didn’t want that intervention to prolong her life. She declined and died peacefully an hour later.

It was a private matter, just Dad and I, then the nurses helped us to prepare Mom for the undertaker. We picked some flowers from her garden and placed them with her. It was a special time for us, a bonding time for Dad and I, cementing our new relationship for a future without Mom.This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week. Please don’t be afraid to talk about it.



I am a scientist and a blogger. I have a PhD in the genetics of cardiovascular risk. My Mom died of cancer last year. We learnt a lot and met some amazing people. I want to share with others how to live positively with cancer, and make choices in end-of-life care. My top tip: Ask the difficult questions.

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