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A Terminal Diagnosis Does Not Terminate Living
Tips for Injecting Living into Dying

By Linda Campanella

(Page 3 of 3)

9. Allow as much opportunity for your loved one to be doing rather than always being done for or done to. A dying person needs and deserves to be treated and valued as a human being, as a person rather than a patient. The notion of being helpless and a burden to loved ones is as demoralizing and demotivating as anything can be. Whether folding some laundry or putting the tape on Christmas presents that I was wrapping or opening the mail or looking up a phone number or wheeling herself to the refrigerator to pull out a yogurt for herself, it was important for my mother to feel she was still "good for something" and still the lady of the house—her house, even when it seemed overtaken by caregivers.

10. Welcome hospice as a companion and guide on the journey of life as the journey comes to an end. Hospice staff and volunteers are angels on earth. Thanks to them, when we reached the final destination we all—my mother and those she was leaving behind—experienced peace and gratitude we had not imagined possible at such a sorrowful time in our lives.

My mother lived, fully and joyfully, for a year and one day from her diagnosis.

A diagnosis of "terminal" cancer does not terminate living. In reality, each of us has already received a terminal diagnosis; we just don't know how close we are to the finish line. Without denying the reality that someone we love is going to be leaving the party sooner than we expected or want, it is possible to suppress that reality and go about the business of enjoying the party while it lasts. And it might last much longer than you expect. Or it might not, but it can still be a lot of fun.


Linda Campanella is a management consultant; her solo practice serves nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions. In previous stops along her career path, she was a corporate executive in the aerospace industry, a senior administrator at a private college, and an international trade negotiator in the executive branch of the federal government. She is the author of the award-winning memoir When All That's Left of Me Is Love. More information about her book can be found at


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