Most people who know me would say I make jokes about death all the time. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones, but someone asked me if I was going to start watching and I couldn’t help but tease that I don’t know how far I’ll get.
It’s 17 months since I was told I had a terminal condition. In this country we’re really bad at thinking, talking or hearing about dying and death. It can feel a shock for people, a long way off, something that will cause unnecessary upset both for us and the people around us.
I tell people I meet, it’s one of the only certainties in life that we’re all going to die. Over the next ten years as our population ages, there’s also going to be more of us doing it. Too few of us have had important conversations about death with our loved ones early enough, and even less people make or record wishes and plans.
Marie Curie wants us to all think, talk and plan earlier, helping break down the taboo around dying. As the leaders in end of life care, Marie Curie has big ambitions to improve the end of life experience for everyone and tackling our reluctance to talk about and prepare for dying and death is one way to achieve this.
People like to talk about death indirectly by using euphemisms. I’m not saying there’s a right way to talk about it – sometimes this is to sound less harsh but it can also be to ignore the reality for as long as possible.
This month Marie Curie launched the first nationwide TV ad encouraging people to talk about and prepare for the end of life. It highlights some well-known and some lesser known euphemisms such as ‘pop your clogs’, ‘pushing up daisies’ and ‘kick the bucket’.
I agree we need to get better as a society about saying things straight.
A doctor said to me that the cancer I have had changed from curable to treatable. I’m clever enough to know what that means, but I know other people might think they’re going to be cured, because they’re being told it’s treatable.
I don’t personally view death as any sort of taboo subject. For me, it’s going to happen. I’m not scared of it and I’m not scared to talk about it.
I’ve had many conversations with my friends and family about my care and my wishes for the end. It’s been difficult for them and I’ve struggled with it of course, especially when I first found out I was terminally ill. When I accepted that, I thought, “How can I move forward with my life?” I’m all for getting things out in the open.
I’ve got a lot of friends who were surprised with my attitude at first, but I believe that a positive attitude can get you far. Know your limitations and adjust of course, but I’ve stepped back into my life exactly where I stepped out of it. I’ve gone back to work, started playing cricket again. I’ve still got lots I want to do.
Marie Curie has been there for hundreds of thousands of families over the last 70 years when someone is dying and have seen first-hand the big difference talking and planning can make for everyone involved.
When people are unprepared for a bereavement we can feel regret, guilt, confusion. There can be family conflicts, money worries and legal issues to deal with.
Talking and planning for the end of life when you can is a gift you can give yourself and those around you. When my time comes, I’ll spend my last days laughing over the good memories, not worrying about what’s not been said.
I’ve made all the decisions about my funeral and I’ve sorted out my finances. My wife Lisa and my daughter have nothing to worry about when I go. I want my last conversations to be about my wedding which we organised earlier this year, advice for my daughter, and that magical day this summer when Liverpool won the league.
For more information visit mariecurie.org.uk/talkabout or call the Marie Curie Support Line free on 0800 090 2309.
Davey Trimmer is living with stage three oesophageal cancer.