That was the message at Sudbury's second end-of-life public forum at the Steelworkers Hall on Feb. 6.
“The reality is we are all going to die,” said Sister Costanza Romano, the team lead for spiritual and religious care for St. Joseph's Health Centre.
Costanza was one of five speakers who addressed the spiritual, legal and medical issues people should address to help them transition when their lives end.
Nearly 600 people attended the public forum to gain insights about the challenges they may face with their own end-of-life care, or that of their loved ones.
Constanza said our culture tries to defy death, and ignore its inevitability. Instead, she said we should have conversations with our families and close friends to share our final wishes.
Brenda Cunningham, who lives with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), spoke about the struggles she has faced with her condition, and her new outlook on life.
“COPD has taught me each breath is a precious thing,” Cunningham said.
Due to her chronic condition, Cunningham is often short of breath and lacks energy.
The disease has increased her levels of fear and anxiety, and forced her to come to terms with her own mortality.
“I never planned on getting old,” she told the crowd Thursday.
She said her desire to take control of her life, and live as well as possible with her disease, has also helped her get her affairs in order before she dies.
To help her cope with her COPD, Cunningham helped start the the Lung Disease Support Group Inc., which provides information and support for other Sudburians affected by lung disease.
In 2012, she embarked on a motorcycle tour she dubbed the Lungevity Tour. Over the course of 30 days, she brought awareness to 22 Ontario communities, as she travelled on the back of her friend's motorcycle.
Lise Poratto-Mason, a partner with the Mason Poratto-Mason LLP law firm, addressed the legal considerations that can help simplify a person's affairs before and after they die.
Poratto-Mason went into great detail on how to prepare a will, choose an executor and delegate powers of attorney, if necessary.
Dr. Andrew Knight, a general practitioner in oncology at the North East Cancer Centre addressed the medical concerns tied to end-of-life care.
Frankie Vitone, senior director of care co-ordination at the North East Community Care Access Centre spoke about the community's hospice and palliative care options.
“For our health-care system to work for our patients, we must work together from the beginning to the end of the patient’s care journey,” Vitone said later in a release. “We are headed in the right direction and have had a great deal of success in addressing barriers and improving care through collaboration.”
The forum was organized by Health Sciences North, Maison Vale Hospice, Warmhearts Palliative Caregivers Sudbury/Manitoulin, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, and the North East Community Care Access Centre.
Dr. Denis Roy, president and CEO of Health Sciences North, commended the event.
“Planning for our end-of-life care is too important of a discussion to avoid, and these forums have helped people start that conversation, so they don’t have to do it in a moment of crisis,” he said in a release.