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Choosing Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)

Part 1: A Dark Place


Norm Osmond at the camp in Grand Bay Brook in March 2020. – courtesy of John Spencer

Editor’s note: MAiD, the acronym for Medical Assistance in Dying, became legal in Canada in 2016. A person with a grievous and irremediably medical condition where death is reasonably foreseeable can choose to seek medical assistance in dying.

The story that follows is the journey of a family member choosing MAiD as his last wish – a wish to be at the helm in deciding how a life spanning nearly eight decades should end.

It is our privilege to share with you Part 1 of this three-part journey of love and courage. Part 2 and Part 3 of the story will follow.

By JOHN SPENCER

Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly

It was a new phone with a two-year contract complete with a protective case.

”Bulletproof.”

Norm Osmond, describing a new phone with a two year contract complete with a protective case Those words flowed as easily as butter on a hot knife.

Bulletproof.

Another one to add to the list.

I had come to know and appreciate Norm’s humour for over 50 years. Norm, who grew up in the ‘brook’ and I, by the fish plant on Pleasant Street, had married sisters from an area with its own unique reference, Lemmietown.

Norm always seemed to have one of those one liners tucked back there, a gift not unique to Norm. A gift for those spontaneous comments found around kitchen tables and fire pits. Those responses that crack you up.

Norm’s courage to dig one up given the circumstances at the time was so brave. The new cell phone was a healthy diversion from conversations that at times were strained for topics outside of Norm’s recent cancer diagnosis. The string of hospital visits, tests, nurses, and doctors – all filled with bad news. Ultrasounds, CT scans, biopsies.

They revealed two primary cancers – bladder and pancreatic.

Follow up bone scans indicated the cancer had already migrated. Other than palliative chemo treatment that, at best, offered a third of a chance of putting the cancers into remission, talk that evening of signing a two-year phone contract brought smiles into a bleak set of circumstances. Symbolically, it was a ray of hope. Perhaps, even a miracle was on the horizon.

Norm had become one of COVID-19’s collateral tragedies.

March madness, with medical care going into pandemic mode. The focus changed from the patient, to being asked to ‘be patient’. Norm fell into the ‘be patient’ group.

On the tip of his eight decades and nearly sixty years married. A life built on family, love, supporting each other, and endurance, he was always there for his two boys, always there for his grandchildren. And now, there for the newest member of the family, another generation. Norm stood proud for a great grandchild.

Norm had toe tapped in Christmas, with eagerly anticipated and much-loved skidoo trips planned in February and March. There were always things to be done in the camp on Grand Bay Brook. Winter provided the opportunity for quick access. Norm proudly took to his skidoo in early March.

COVID-19 took centre stage. Primary health care got put on the back burner. Talk of hygiene, distancing, and isolation. Talk of bubbles. Lost in this shuffle were individuals. Those waiting had to wait some more.

Norm was one of many that was lost.

Feeling a lot worse in April, but not one to complain, Norm in isolation was doing his best to stay patient. There was a loss of appetite, coinciding with rapid weight loss. Norm was slowing down.

He was deadly ill by May, and diagnostics became urgent. By June, Norm’s cancer was stage four. Norm was now in a dark place with little hope.

Talk of a new cell that evening brought smiles on what was to be a short journey.

This story continues on Monday, January 18, 2021 in Part 2: The Decision for MAiD.

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