Why early advance care planning conversations are so important

When you hear the word cancer, you begin to contemplate the finality
of life and ask yourself a hundred questions: Will I survive? If
treatment is no longer an option, how do I want to spend my remaining
time? What if I am no longer able to make my own decisions? How do I
choose someone to speak on my behalf?

I’m thankful my cancer journey has not reached a point when those
last questions mattered, but when I was just beginning my breast cancer treatment, I didn’t know what was
going to happen. Thankfully, advance care planning helped me prepare for
every scenario.

Establishing clarity with MD
and my family

After my breast cancer diagnosis, I really took the time to
understand my disease, prognosis, as well as my treatment goals and
plans. That information allowed me to openly discuss all my options
with my family and health care team, and choose the treatment course
that best fit my needs. And because I had already completed my Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will and Out of Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order, MD Anderson knew from the get-go who could
speak on my behalf if I was no longer able to do so and what my
medical team needed to do in emergency and life-or-death situations.

Taking control of my medical decisions

Making my care preferences known early got everyone on the same page
and lessened my anxiety about the future. When I was being wheeled
into surgery, someone asked me if I’d already completed my advance
directive forms. I was glad my answer was yes because I didn’t have
the added pressure of thinking about those questions.

Advance care planning also gave me the opportunity to remain in
control of my care. So if I’d somehow lost the ability to convey my
thoughts after surgery or during one my chemotherapy treatments, it felt good knowing that
my family and care team could still execute my wishes. Plus, it also
protected my family from having to make any of those unbearably
difficult decisions on my behalf.

How advance directives can make your cancer journey easier

I know talking about advance care planning during cancer treatment
can be frightening, and it can generate a lot of emotions. However, I
believe that it can empower us to become involved in making decisions
about our care. It can help us avoid undesired medical treatment,
stress in a time of crisis, and lessen the financial and emotional
burdens on our loved ones.

I recommend documenting those decisions at the start of treatment,
before the possibility of unforeseen circumstances even exists. Doing
so helped me thoughtfully choose the care I really wanted and gave me
some sense of control in my cancer journey. It can help do the same
for you, too.

If you are interested in learning more about advance care planning
and/or advance directives, please call the Department of Social Work at 713-792-6195.

Request an appointment at

MD Anderson
or by calling 1-877-632-6789.