I have very mixed feelings about the support we were offered towards the end of Mom’s life. Everyone was lovely and kind to Mom, but nobody would talk about her dying. Even the Macmillan nurse wouldn’t broach the subject because she said that Mom wasn’t ready to talk about it. I remember that day very clearly. Even I could see that Mom had weeks to live, the tumours were growing out her back, they had all but blinded her and just about paralysed her. The community nurses came and went, leaving Dad to do most things. The GP cried a lot.

I had to do something so I gave up my job and went in search of a conversation – about dying. I found it on the internet, with strangers, who having gone through the painful loss of a loved one, wanted to, perhaps needed to, share their experiences.

Day by day that late summer, as I sat with Mom, we talked about her choices.  I asked Mom to think about where she wanted to die. She wanted to be at home so we invited the GP to complete a Do Not Resuscitate form for her file. This would stop the paramedics from taking Mom to hospital, should Dad panic in the middle of the night.

Mom didn’t want to go in to hospice, so the District Nurse at the GP surgery helped us to obtain a hospital bed, commode, portable oxygen and carers to assist with bathing and dressing. We made Mom comfortable at home and settled into a routine.

I noticed little things in the last week of Mom’s life. Tinges of blue in her fingers and toes, dry skin, a darkness behind her eyes. I urged the Community Nurse who called on us that morning to talk to Dad, who was still in denial. As she went through the Liverpool Care Pathway with him, the horror began to sink in. I think he must have had a quiet word with Mom later that day, a word between lovers, saying good-bye. Mom’s death came peacefully not long after that.

In the days that followed, I held Dad’s hand as we talked about Mom’s funeral wishes. She had been very clear with me about the service, the hymns and readings, and had even written a poem.

It isn’t easy facing death, but it does help to talk about it. I hope that by sharing our experience, we might be able to help someone else.

Published in support of Dying Matters Awareness Week.




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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