When you or a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis or realizes that further treatments cannot cure an illness, you have to face the reality of death. This can be a challenging stage of life, but also a deeply rewarding and meaningful one.
Don’t focus too much on death itself, palliative care doctor Suzanne Pertsch, M.D., suggests. "Dying is a very short stage of life, just like birth. Birth is what, 24 hours? Dying is about the same,” Dr. Pertsch says.
As medical director of Palliative Care at Mills-Peninsula, Dr. Pertsch helps patients focus instead on living each day to the fullest. Our culture, she says, needs to do a better job of making the end of life “a celebratory stage of life, like the anticipation of the birth of a child.”
Dr. Pertsch recalls one patient who did just that.
After the woman decided not to receive further treatments for advanced cancer, “she turned her energy toward having really intimate and meaningful conversation with all of the people that she had relationships with throughout her life.” She also helped plan her son’s wedding and made a video about her life for her future grandchildren.
While everyone’s end-of-life journey will be unique, Dr. Pertsch offers some suggestions for navigating this period of life.