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Coming to terms with a short prognosis or advancement of cancer can be extremely hard both for you and your loved ones. The emotional impact is huge and combined with a number of practical challenges, might make you feel like you’re struggling to cope. We can help.

Talk about what you want

Talking about death and dying is the first step. It’s an experience we will all have at some point in our lives, but there can still be a huge reluctance and stigma around it. Many people find it upsetting or even refuse to discuss it.

Throughout our lives we plan to make sure things go smoothly, and the way we want them to. We make birth plans and wedding plans, so why not death plans? When you’re living with incurable cancer it can feel like a lot of things are out of your hands. But making plans for when you or a loved one dies, can help you feel more in control.

There are lots of decisions to make when you start planning for death. It can be overwhelming for both you and your family. But it can help you come to terms with what’s happening, and make sure big decisions are made together.

Planning your end of life care

Advance Care Plan

Also known as an Advance Statement, this involves thinking about the care and treatment you receive in the final months of your life, including those you may not want. Talking about this early and having it written down, means you can make your family aware of your wishes, while you're still able to. It will help them if they ever need to make decisions about your care on your behalf.

Advance Decision

Also known as a Living Will, Advance Decision is specifically about what treatments you may want to refuse in future.

Lasting Power of Attorney

This is when you legally appoint someone who can make decisions about your care in the future if you’re unable to.

Making or updating your Will towards the end of your life

It’s important to make sure you make or update your Will, to reflect your wishes for what happens after you’re gone. It means you can take care of your loved ones, as well as reducing stress and expense later on. If you don’t have a Will, the government will decide what happens to your money and assets.

Make a Will for free

We can help you make or update your Will for free through our Free Wills Scheme. We’ll help you find a solicitor who can visit you at your home, hospice or hospital, at short notice. Find out more about Free Wills here.

Letter of wishes

You may also want to write something called a ‘Letter of wishes’ which is a supporting document to your Will and is normally stored with it. This isn’t a legal document, but is a way for you to share your final wishes, thoughts and anything else you’d like to say to your loved ones after you’ve gone. Sometimes it can be easier to write these things down, and can be something your family treasure. 

Your digital legacy

These days it’s normal to have a number of online accounts and social media profiles. When you’re planning ahead, it could be useful to make a list of these accounts, especially those which are subscription, share passwords with loved ones, or in the case of Facebook, nominate a legacy contact. You may also want to discuss with your loved ones what you want them to do with your Facebook page if you have one, as they can be ‘memorialised’ or removed. Find out more here.

Planning your funeral

Making a plan for your funeral can give you the chance to talk to your loved ones about what you want to happen. You may like to think about the following things:

  • What you want to happen to your body – burial or cremation, and if cremation what you want to happen to your ashes
  • What sort of coffin you might prefer
  • Whether the ceremony is religious or not
  • What songs or flowers you might have and what you want people to wear
  • How people celebrate your life
  • Whether you ask for donations instead of flowers and if so, in aid of what charity. We’d always be grateful for donations in memory and we can provide donation envelopes on request

Emotional and practical support for you and your loved ones

Knowing you or a loved one are going to die soon can take a huge toll emotionally and mentally. There is lots of support available though.

  • If you want to talk to someone about death and dying you can call our free Support Line on 0808 808 1010. Our nurses are here to talk to you about medical and practical things, as well as being a listening ear.
  • You can find other kinds of emotional support through Marie Curie here
  • You may find useful support through The Art of Dying Well
  • A range of practical advice and information is available here

Contact our Advice Team

Get in touch with our Ask the Advisor form or call our free Support Line on 0808 808 1010.

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free cancer Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010