Episode 8 of the Intersection of Cancer and Life is a special episode for me – at the time it airs, it will have been a year since my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. In this episode, I talk with Abigail Johnston, a fellow lawyer, mother, and metastatic breast cancer thriver. Before cancer, Abigail was an accomplished lawyer in the central Florida area, practicing for over fifteen years and building a life with her husband and two boys. Once she was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, Abigail closed her firm to be able to spend more time with her family. Life for Abigail is full of doctors appointments, research and advocacy within and for the metastatic breast cancer community as well as family time. As part of her advocacy efforts, Abigail started a program called Connect IV Legal Services, in which she connects metastatic cancer patients with lawyers, to help them address legal issues such as advance directives, and will drafting, among other things.In this episode, Abigail and I mention a few things I want to further explain:
Metastatic breast cancer that is diagnosed de novo means that it was never early-stage cancer, and was diagnosed as metastatic before any surgery or treatment has taken place. Both Abigail and I were diagnosed de novo. We also talk about some legal documents that you may not be familiar with, including Wills, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and living will.
A Will is the document in which you pass on all of your possessions to a person or people after you die. However, a will does not only do that, but can dictate things such as the creation of a trust or the guardian for a minor child. A Health Care Proxy is the document that allows someone to have the power to make medical decisions on your behalf, in particular if you are incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. A Power of Attorney is the document that allows someone to make financial and personal needs decisions on your behalf, should you be in a position where you are unable to do so yourself. A Living Will is the document that indicates your preferences for resuscitation and life support, should you be in a position to need them. If you have heard the term “do not resuscitate” – this is the document that can allow someone to have that wish. This document allows people to have a say in how they want their end of life medical care handled, as so often when people are in these positions, they are unable to effectively communicate these wishes.
Disclaimer: This episode has some audio issues at the beginning of the episode.