This blog was originally published on Dyingwell.uk, a website owned by Clair Fisher.
In Clair’s words: “Dying Well was my retirement project. A space for me to document my personal journey, to explore the evidence around wellbeing in terminal illness and test out some of the theories.”
I know Google isn’t always the best for research, but it is a start.
And so today I started with a Google search for Wellbeing & Terminal illness. As I scrolled through the returns to read the content, I realised that there really is a gap here. Because behind most of these links is advice about avoiding depression and anxiety. The suggestions labelled as ‘wellbeing’ all seem very medicalised. From talking to your GP to joining terminal illness support groups, what seems to be missing is a sense of life, joy and possibility.
I was fascinated to find a thread on Quora “Is it abnormal to be glad when you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness?” There are some really beautiful comments on here from people who have found happiness, hope, liberty and purpose after a terminal diagnosis. But it’s the question itself that fascinated me. A guilt about being ok. This is something that’s surprised me as I’ve lived with my illness; people who know me, who know my faith and positive approach, still seem surprised that I not falling into the pit of despair. I’ve been accused of ‘pretending to be ok’ by some and others don’t believe I’m actually ill because of how ‘well’ I seem. Surely it should be possible to be well, but dying, and for living like that to become a more normal part of our society?
Given that the only thing that’s certain in this life is that at some point we are all going to die, I think there really should be more of a conversation about what it means to Die Well. I know that the people I leave behind will be sad when I go, and I’m not naïve enough to think that there’s not going to be pain ahead, but I really want to find a way to be able to joyfully and faithfully embrace the final chapter.
How do I live the rest of my life happily? How can I build a legacy of positive memories with my family? How can we journey this road together peacefully resisting trauma?
This is my retirement project. To Die Well. To live, laugh, love, exercise, give, dream and hope until my final breath.
And if I can get the NHS to add a link to their Wellbeing advice from their terminal illness pages, that will also be a win!