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A Piece of My Mind
September 25, 2018

Letting Her Be in Charge

Author Affiliations
  • 1Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 2Yale Child Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA. 2018;320(12):1241-1242. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.13098

She stretched out 5 fingers when I walked in the room. “Five days until your birthday, right?” I said. She nodded with a small smile expressing victory.

That was 5 days before my mother’s 75th birthday and 5 days before she died.

That evening, my brother, father, husband, and I gathered in her hospice room by the sea. We had spent the day struggling with how to tell Mom, who had been talking about another round of chemotherapy, that we did not agree with this plan. We feared that additional treatment risked doing harm without benefit. For months she had religiously stuck to the schedule, watching all her counts, hopeful that the red cells, white cells, and platelets would be high enough to proceed with the next round. Now it was time to stop. “Whoever thought somebody would want to have chemo so badly?” she asked us.

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