Julie McCrossin is dying to talk
Former ABC radio presenter and TV host, Julie McCrossin, was diagnosed with stage-four cancer three years ago. The cancer, now in remission, was in her tonsils, tongue and throat.
Below, Julie answers questions from the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. For support in starting the discussion with your loved ones, download it from www.dyingtotalk.org.au
If you had a condition that you could not recover from, what would be important to you, towards the end of your life?
A combination of radiation and some chemotherapy has put my cancer into remission. I am very lucky to still be able to swallow, eat and speak. My salivary glands have recovered so I still have my teeth. I am still checked regularly.
If I had serious recurrence I would contact a palliative care team, with support from my GP, as soon as possible and seek all the help available from a multidisciplinary team. A team of people helped me recover and I would want to work with a team to live the best life possible for as long as possible. I would want to be pain free and able to connect and communicate with my partner, Melissa, family and friends.
Are there any pets that you would like to see or be with you, if this is possible?
My partner and I have two, tiny cavoodles called Charlie and Bruno. They have been essential support and comfort for us both during my treatment and recovery from cancer. I want to die with them on my bed either at home or in a hospice. This is terribly important to me. Their presence would reduce any anxiety or agitation at the end, for myself and my partner Melissa, far more effectively than medication.
Would you prefer a quiet environment or do you prefer activity and chatter around you?
When it comes to my physical surroundings at the very end of my life, I trust my partner Melissa and our adult kids, Amelia and Luke, to know what I will need and to advocate for me.
What soothes me now is a quiet private room, choral music and nature. I hate the sound of commercial radio or television. I expect it will be the same at the end.
Are there any cultural or religious practices you would like to observe?
I attend the South Sydney Uniting Church and my faith is a deep part of who I am. My Minister, Andrew, and close friends from church would support Melissa and me with visits and prayers in a low key way.
Would you prefer to be surrounded by lots of family and friends, or would you prefer one or two closest people to be with you?
I am lucky to have many close, good friends and I would love to see them in the days before my death, if I am well enough.
I think at the very end of my life I would want to be with my close family, Melissa, our children and the two little dogs. If very close friends were there, I trust Melissa to include them if it feels right.
I think the best possible death is achieved by developing a good relationship with a palliative care team in the months or weeks before you die. When you have these trusting relationships, you can seek advice from them about when the time has come to reduce treatment to steps to bring comfort only and not seek to prolong life.
I have given enduring power of attorney and enduring guardianship to my partner. I have completed an advanced care directive that essentially gives discretion to Melissa to make the decisions that she thinks are best for me. She knows me well and has my total confidence.
What is on your bucket list of things you would like to do or achieve before you die?
I am lucky to have lived a full and adventurous life. My only desire before I die is to spend as much time as possible in the company of the people I love. I am trying to reduce my tendency to be busy with activities so I can achieve this goal right now. Why wait till I am dying?
How did you feel during the process of completing this form? Was there anything about the process that interested or surprised you?
Answering these questions has confirmed for me the importance of thinking these issues through calmly, so that we start living each day with a quiet knowledge that the end could come at any time.
Julie will host Palliative Care Victoria’s conference — Inside Outside Palliative Care — in Melbourne on 28-29 July 2016.
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