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Miss Norma Said ‘No Chemo’ And Died On Her Own Terms

Francis Cassidy
No Chemo Miss Norma hits the road instead

90-year old Norma said, “No chemo,” and hit the road instead. There is peace in dying on your own terms.

Those who choose to live the remainder of their lives on their terms are inspiring in so many ways. Whether it’s choosing chemo or no chemo after a cancer diagnosis; within the act itself is an important lesson for those of us who still have time to live. The same goes for cannabis in a person’s twilight years, or in how they choose to manage the pain of an unwanted diagnosis.

Chemo or no Chemo: Dying on Your own Terms

In the 2007 comedy-drama Bucketlist, two terminally ill men played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson hit the road with a wish list of things to do before they die. There were very few dry eyes in theatres as viewers witnessed the formation of a bond between two men set on going out with a bang.

The question of how people should spend their final days never ceases to garner the attention of the masses. Numerous books describe the grief, anxieties, and wishes of the dying. The regrets they harbor about their life and the things they could have or should have done differently never fail to strike us all. Such books often prove to be the most fascinating of reads, not only for the dying, but perhaps more importantly for those of us who still have the time to change.

Author Bronnie Ware wrote a book entitled The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying. A miserable banker for much of her life, she took matters into her own hands and decided to live life on her terms. It was after a stint volunteering at a nursing home that she authored the book reflecting the wishes and regrets of those she encountered there.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Ware’s book detailed the top five regrets as:

  • Regret for not spending enough time with friends or family.
  • Regret for not allowing oneself to be happy.
  • A regret of having worked so much.
  • Regret for not expressing real emotions.
  • Regret of not living life on their terms.

The alignment to cultural values that don’t represent the individual seems to drive much of the regret held by the dying. And many suffer from an inability to adequately express emotions throughout their lifetime.

In the book entitled On Living by Kerry Eagan, she claims the three sure things in life to be birth, dying, and paying taxes.

Dying is about living. It’s about finding courage in the face of fear. The book details how the dying often want to be listened to. How starved of touch, they want to feel loved and be loved just the way they are.

The dying know they are short on time. And as a result, they are motivated more than anyone to do what they want to do, just like an American lady known as Driving Miss Norma.

Driving Miss Norma

Norma Jean Bauerschmidt was a ninety-year-old American. After a uterine cancer diagnosis, she was asked by the doctor if she’d like to proceed with chemotherapy. She promptly turned to him and replied, “I’m 90 years old, I’m hitting the road.”

Her no-chemo approach led her on an epic road trip with her son, her daughter in law, and her dog Ringo. An ensuing year-long adventure of thirteen-thousand miles took her through thirty-two states.

Regular updates on her Facebook page detailed her adventures. From hot air balloons to horse riding, and from pedicures to indulging in every imaginable culinary delight, she embraced the present moment right up until the end.

no chemo for this older adult in palliative care, who we jsut see the wrinkled hand of

Reframing Death

Well-intentioned and altruistic staff in hospitals do their best to comfort the dying. But the truth is that few want to die numbed out under bright fluorescent lights beside the blinking LEDs of high-tech equipment.

Research published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2016), evaluated what’s important to the dying. Above all, comfort, feeling unburdened, feelings of peace, and a sense of wonderment and spirituality are what they desire most.

With hindsight, many look back on wasted years; the time spent slaving in front of a computer, the lack of loving relationships, the realization around the anger they harbored within. In reality, however, all that matters is the present moment.

Any regret can quickly pass with our attention focused on the present. By accepting what can’t be changed, people begin to understand that how we die is something we can change.

But while some have an ingrained mindset that inhibits them from becoming their true selves late in life, science shows that there is something that can help us come to terms with what awaits.

Using Plant Allies to Come to Terms With Death

Various plant allies are widely known to help people come to terms with impending death. Plant medicines, like psilocybin or even cannabis, can help people develop a sense that there is something beyond this life. If anything, they tend to create a subjective reality that people can find peace in. The effects of this reframing are often nothing short of remarkable.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) sponsors clinical trials in the use of psilocybin as a tool to help those with a terminal illness come to terms with imminent death.

Psilocybin is the naturally occurring ingredient in magic mushrooms. One particular study published by MAPS (2012), detailed the experiences of 55-year-old Pam Sakuda who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After a supervised psilocybin session, she claimed that, “there could be a next phase. I believe that now.”

Dr. John Halpern, a psychiatrist, involved with the study, added that “you have an experience in which you feel there is something you are a part of, something else is out there that’s bigger than you, that there is a dazzling unity you belong to, that love is possible and all these realizations are imbued with deep meaning.”

Many of those facing death, who undergo psilocybin treatment in a therapeutic environment, often report less anxiety and depression. This is coupled with a greater acceptance of death.

Cannabis too, for its part, can help many people choose to live the life they truly desire. With mindful consumption, cannabis is a powerful spiritual ally. It can erode alignment to unwholesome cultural values; it can help enable a deep connection to the spirit and enhance the three-dimensional aspect to thinking where people can see their own mortality in a very different light.

no chemo for this older adult in palliative care meeting with a doctor

Facing Mortality on Your Own Terms

If diagnosed with a serious illness, would we worry about the petty things we currently do? Would we live life differently if we knew tomorrow to be our last day? And would we express ourselves differently? Would we still put the time into those things that simply don’t matter? And perhaps most importantly, would we repress and deny the need for love?

Thankfully, most of us don’t have to wait until a deadly diagnosis to make these decisions. Moreover, those who bravely face death give us all the information we need to handle it. Let’s not put off doing the work on ourselves. Let’s all try to ensure we face death on our own terms where possible. We should do it whether that means chemo or no chemo, or cannabis or no cannabis.

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog

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