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The Journey Begins...

The Journey Begins...

‘Tis the Night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring…. No, no, no! Wait! … that’s not it! ‘Tis the night before ICEL2… it was the ice that got me confused or perhaps it’s just that my brain has turned to mush as I juggle so many details and get ready to leave for the Second International Conference on End of Life Choices. With the help of my amazing housekeeper, we got the laundry done and my wardrobe all packed in anticipation of three very action-packed days in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Even Teddy got into the swing of things and has donned a very dapper silver bow tie for the occasion.

I haven’t travelled without my husband in the past fourteen years. He was my rock and constant support. Paul always made sure the suitcases were packed neatly in the car, along with all my medical paraphernalia. Now those jobs fall to me to do on my own or arrange for friends and my terrific housekeeper to lend a helping hand. Everyone is so supportive and kind. Travelling, when you live with chronic pain and illness, is never a spur of the moment decision. It always requires planning, foresight and flexibility. One thing that really surprised me was that my new rollator/transport chair takes up much of the trunk! Good thing my girls are staying home. I can put my suitcase in the back seat.

I miss my husband’s presence, but this trip is all about him. I’ll be telling the story of his end of life choice, MAID, to an international audience. He would have been so thrilled to know that his message about choice and dying with dignity is getting out there. So, perhaps, on some level, he will be right there beside me, guiding my every word as I speak. Certainly, Teddy will be by my side, lending his support. I will confess to feeling a little overwhelmed to be going before such a dynamic group of international leaders in this field. However, I will endeavour to simply tell our story, as best I can, in the hopes that Paul and I can help educate and inform the medical community and public at large about medical assistance in dying from the perspective of the patient and their family.

MAID presents a totally new approach to death. One our society has seldom experienced before. I will discuss the topic in my latest blog post on the Dying With Dignity Canada web site which will be published, today, September 13th. I hope you’ll take the time to read it as some of the material will reflect what I say on Thursday morning. It will give you a sneak peak into a few of the types of issues we’ll be tackling at the conference. So, we’re off down the road in the morning… Teddy, my cub reporter, and I’ll report more, as time permits, from the conference! I look forward to sharing all the news with you....


The New Journey

Four months ago, I could not have imagined that I would have become a dual advocate for chronic pain and MAID. When my husband chose to die with dignity on his own terms, he asked me to share his story so that others would know that they too had choices at the end of their life. I have been working with Dying With Dignity Canada to help create this legacy for Paul. Here is the account of his choice... Paul's Story




By Liana Brittain


Everything old is new again. As humanity begins to explore the dynamics of power and inclusiveness, the role of the genders and the lines separating them are being questioned once again. World leaders and religious fundamentalists are taking sides, as this develops into a tug of war between liberal ideologies and conservative points of view. These issues are becoming polarized and extreme positions are emerging.

Educated, openminded people, with vision, are recognizing the lack of balance in society’s traditional view of the equality between men and women.  As an example, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has formally declared himself a feminist and appointed a governing cabinet which is half female and half male. Recently, the Canadian Prime Minister has taken this one step farther and entered a joint endeavour with the United States Government by forming a bilateral task force called “The United States Canada Council for the Advancement of Women Business Leaders-Female Entrepreneurs”. This brings the role of women, in modern times, to the centre stage of global affairs.

Modern media is raising awareness of the position women hold in our society. The exploration of the ancient role of the divine or scared feminine is highlighted in the movie “The Da Vinci Code”. We also see this echoed, more recently, in the Grammy performance of Beyonce, where she evoked the energy of The Goddess as a pregnant woman. The ancient Celts had no confusion about cultural roles and gender. Everyone was equal and had the same rights. Woman were recognized as powerful beings capable of the great strength required to lead their people into battle or bear children. The power symbol of the Goddess, representing all womanhood, was that of the double-bladed battle axe called “Saragus”. I have chosen to show this feminine symbol of strength in the image “Empowerment” covered with the fertility symbols of vines, leaves and seeds.

Other roles are also expanding. Gender lines are being blurred as society moves to recognize the needs of those who’s personal identity varies from what was traditionally male and female. The younger generation of emergent adults recognizes the humanity within the individual rather than the exterior trappings created by genitalia. We have come a long way since Marshall McLuhan declared the “Medium is the message” *, but it still applies. As the global community evolves, we are faced with a war of words and ideologies. All facets of society are publicly demanding recognition of their own unique needs. We are being sensitized to differing opinions and points of view. Our own humanity is being called into question as we grapple with the concepts of inclusiveness. Is it cultural diversity that creates the fabric of our modern world or is it the need to become a homogenous melting pot?  These questions are not without repercussions. The extreme right is pushing back by demanding a return to the status quo in an ever shifting and expanding world.

We, the public, are caught in the middle during this time of global transition. The roots of the conflict are very basic: the fight for power and control on many levels. Cultural, religious, ethnic and societal norms are exploding and being shattered as mankind is torn between the uncertainty of progressive change and the safety of traditional values. This generates tremendous fear, anxiety and stress for those who are being bombarded by conflicting messages. People suffering from chronic illness and pain are particularly vulnerable. The link between stress and chronic pain are evident and well documented. Positivity and mindful actions are our best way forward. Focusing on gratitude, a positive mind set and relaxation strategies are paramount, as we fight to manage our symptoms and chronic pain. Here at Living in Pain Successfully, we are aware of the need to create an atmosphere of relaxation and positivity. To this end, we’ve produced a guided relaxation experience through a series of exercises designed to promote an oasis of calm and help restore a sense of balance in a chaotic world. Our consulting psychotherapist, Paul B. Couvrette, has created the CD “Serenity” for us to help achieve these goals. In this tumultuous time of upheaval and uncertainty, it’s reassuring to know we can turn to the ancient traditions inspired by meditation, yoga and tai chi to help us restore a sense of peace and balance in our lives. The world can rage on around us, but we are secure in the thought that everything old is new again. We can empower ourselves by creating an oasis of calm that will shelter us from the storm that rages in this time of transition.   

 *   Mark Federman - Quoted from: “What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message? http://www.individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm” 

 ” Why is this understanding of "the medium is the message" particularly useful? We tend to notice changes - even slight changes (that unfortunately we often tend to discount in significance.) "The medium is the message" tells us that noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium. With this early warning, we can set out to characterize and identify the new medium before it becomes obvious to everyone - a process that often takes years or even decades. And if we discover that the new medium brings along effects that might be detrimental to our society or culture, we have the opportunity to influence the development and evolution of the new innovation before the effects becomes pervasive. As McLuhan reminds us, "Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force." (McLuhan 199)”