In this blog, we’re talking about a sensitive topic – dying. It’s something that most people, myself included, are not 100% comfortable talking about. You might even say that our society still treats it as taboo. We buy products that defy ageing, and wish to appear strong in the face of sickness. All these things make it difficult to confront death, and therefore talk about it. But if you or a loved one is living with cancer that can’t be cured, then talking about the future could help you and your family both emotionally and practically.

‘Now that we have discussed the final weeks, we can enjoy the time left, however long it may be.’

Importance of planning ahead

By thinking ahead, you can tell people, or write down, how and where you would like to be cared for if you ever become very unwell and need treatment. Many people prefer to stay at home, and if you have made this decision clear in advance, this is more likely to happen. 

‘Dennis died at home, in his own bed, with his dog Murphy lying beside him and his granddaughter Lauren holding his hand.’

Your wishes will be taken into account if through your illness you become unable to communicate or decide on your care. There are also legal documents you can use to refuse certain treatments in certain situations, or to appoint someone to make decisions about your personal welfare or finances if you’re unable to.

Another way that people plan ahead is by making a will. A will is the only way to make sure that your wishes are carried out after you die, and that your family and friends are provided for in the way you want. It also includes any specific funeral arrangements you want.

Planning ahead can also help you take back some control, when everything else might seem out of control. 

‘I was very keen that my funeral service would be just how I wanted it, and I’ve made that easy for my husband because I knew he would be dithering… I’ve changed it a few times because I hear a new piece of music and I think, you know that would be really good, I’ll have that as well!’

Get the information you need

We’ve recently revised the information on our website about advance care planning. It covers everything from advance decisions about treatment and legal issues, to wills, organ donation and funeral planning. As the laws vary across the UK, there is separate information for England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Visit the web page and get the information you need to help you make choices about your own life and care.

The same information is also available in our booklets called Your life and your choices, which contain real-life experiences and documents you can use to write down your future wishes:

Front cover of Your life and your choices, England and Wales Front cover of Your life and your choices, Scotland Front cover of Your life and your choices, Northern Ireland

Dying Matters also has various resources on its website, including their Find Me Help tool, where you can search for helpful services that are local to you.

Further support

Planning ahead can be upsetting and difficult. If you need support, please call us on 0808 808 00 00. Our cancer support specialists are here to listen and to help.

There is a Living with incurable cancer support group on our website, where you can talk to others who understand. If you’re a carer, there’s a Carers only group too.