After I was diagnosed with brain cancer, I developed a desire to have really tough conversations about death and dying with my family so that I could share my thoughts with them and feel less alone on this journey that’s been full of uncertainty. At first, this was quite challenging for me and my family, but one of the things that has really helped us to be able to have these tough conversations was my realization that this topic was not something unique and exclusive to me and people like me, but rather a conversation we all should be having regardless of age, health, and condition.
Nobody lives forever and even though some people may seem to have better odds than others, tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone. Unfortunately, our society makes death and dying very frightening because the only time people get asked about their wishes and end of life care is when death seems to be looming directly over them. This prevents us from developing any level of familiarity, comfort, and acceptance with this topic.
In an effort to confront this problem and try to combat this societal barrier, I began advocating for my entire family to have these conversations and revisit them regularly so that when the time comes we are each able to revisit this topic as a familiar concept opposed to completely foreign and devastatingly unbelievable circumstances.
While there are very real emotional and social challenges associated with addressing this topic, I’ve become incredibly empowered by the idea that there are still things out there that I have a choice over. This has been a very rewarding and welcomed realization after struggling to manage the overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and loss of control that formed after my diagnosis.
My intention is not to instill paranoia about death or dying, but rather begin to open a door for each of you to have those tough conversations about your future wishes regarding being comforted, supported, treated, and remembered when the time arises. At no point are you giving up hope by talking about this topic. You are simply ensuring that your wishes regarding the eventually inevitable circumstance that everyone will face are communicated and respected.
Tara Baysol is a recent graduate of Yale’s School of Public Health Masters program. Prior to pursuing her masters she worked in various project management and administrative support roles within healthcare, human services, and research settings. Inspired by her time in human services, Tara pursued an opportunity to explore health quality research in hopes of better understanding how we measure patient experience. During that time, Tara familiarized herself with the research field and developed a greater interest in quality improvement initiatives within health care. Since then, she has worked in community hospitals and practice settings to help improve systems and patient experience. As a graduate student, Tara focused on the Affordable Care Act’s impacts on the delivery of health care, as well as the challenges surrounding patient outcomes and quality improvement initiatives.