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Cervical cancer terminal diagnosis - making decisions and plans

***Please note these are new information pages. These are draft pages and currently being reviewed***

There will be decisions to be made about how you want the end of your life to be. This sections will provide information on how you can start to plan and what sort of things you might want to think about.

Treatment plans and priorities
The treatments you want now may be different to the treatments you would choose if you become more poorly. It can be helpful to plan your care with your medical team and your carer. There may come a point when you don’t want any more treatment or there are certain procedures you would not wish to have. Although this can be a painful process, some women actually find it very therapeutic to make plans when they are well enough. Making sure your wishes are met is part of Advance Care Planning which means you will discuss what you want with your health care team – your decisions will be documented.

‘Putting your house in order’
At the moment you may be making decisions about different aspects of your life. You may also want to think about organising your personal affairs. This includes thinking about practical issues like your bank account, mortgage or rent, what sort of funeral you would like or what might happen to your treasured possessions. Sometimes when people die, those left don’t know what that person really wanted, but organising this side of things can ensure you live on in people’s hearts and minds in the way you wish.

In the next section we will give you a starting point and suggestions of how you can do this. There will also be links of other organisations that can help you further. This can be a painful and difficult process, so do ask for help and emotional support from your family and friends if you need it.

Documenting your wishes
Mand woman supporting each other / making decisions about careTalking about dying can be one of the most difficult conversations to have but it is important to let your loved ones know what you want. A ‘letter of wishes’ allows you to tell your loved ones about the type of treatment you may want, what kind of funeral you would like and explain in further detail about your will (there is more information on wills here). Your ‘letter of wishes’ could be written by hand or typed up using a computer. If you are unable to write it yourself you could ask someone close to you to help you. If you can’t or don’t want to write your letter you could record your wishes using a videocamera or dictaphone. It is important to think about who you want to share your wishes with and who will be the person that might help you fulfil your wishes.

Power of attorney
When people are ill they often appoint someone they trust that they will give ‘power of attorney’ to. This means that that person can act on their behalf in case they become too ill to make their own decisions. Think carefully about who you appoint so that you feel confident that they will indeed respect your wishes.

You will need to let the person know what you want so you will need to give them your letter of wishes or talk to them about what you do and don’t want. You may also want to consider giving them information and guidance on dealing with your digital property such as your email and social media accounts, the pin code to your mobile phone and relaying any passwords you think they may need to manage your affairs (such as online banking or shopping accounts). The person you entrust may also need to know about some of the practical things like your bank account details, information on utility bills, details of your rent or mortgage.

Making a will
A will is a legal document that lets you decide what you want to happen to your money, property and possessions after you die. It is different to your letter of wishes because it is a formal document so it means whatever is written in your will is legally binding. You should include information about who you want to inherit your estate.

You can write your will yourself or you can employ a solicitor to do this for you. It is advised that you get some legal advice so that your will covers your entire estate. Your estate is everything that you own which includes your assets like your home, bank accounts, personal possessions as well as any debts such as your credit card balance or loans.

When you make a will you will need to choose an executor. These are people who make sure what you have asked for in your will happens so they will be responsible for distributing your money and property after your death. Choosing an executor is an important decision and you can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Your will won’t be legally binding unless it has been signed by two witnesses. Both witnesses need to be in the room and sign at the same time. You must choose witnesses who are not going to be beneficiaries of the will (that means they must not get anything from the will). This might seem quite complicated but there is detailed information available written by other organisations that can help you to make a will.

Other things to think about
Here is a list of a just a few things to think about that you might want to cover either in your letter of wishes or separately:

  • Your housing situation
    • If you are renting you may want to make sure that you let your landlord know what will happen to your tenancy, will someone be taking it over?
    • If you have a mortgage who will be taking over the payments. You might want to let your bank know about your decision.
  • Bills and utilities
    • Have a think about any regular payments that you have such as your mobile phone, gas, water and electricity bills or any other standing orders.
  • Do you have any dependants?
    • In your letter of wishes and your will you may have already thought about any family members that you are responsible for but if you haven’t do take a bit of time to let others know what you want.
    • If you are a mother this will be a really tough time. Give yourself a chance to process your cancer situation you might find that talking to other people, be that your GP, GCNS or Palliative Care Team. Here are some organisations that might be able to provide more information to you and support to your children:
    • This is a very difficult time for any family. Some women choose to create a memory box, where photos, objects or mementos can be stored for your family. You can also do this electronically, by adding your favourite music or record your voice or make a video.

It can be useful to think about the different areas of your life and once you have decided what you want, you can spend time thinking about things you want to do, such as the people you want to speak to or the trips you want to make. You can plan to do those activities with the people who are important in your life.

It can take time to accept the terminal diagnosis you have been given. Talking to other women who know what you’re going through can help our online forum can help you connect with women who are also facing a terminal diagnosis. To go to the forum click here.

For a full list of other organisations that can help you, click here.

Date last updated: 
30 Oct 2013