Living with a terminal illness

The dreaded 'C' word. Cancer. You felt a change in your body and visited your doctor. They sent you for some tests and came back for your results. This is a very common story and in most cases a simple treatment plan if any is put in place. All is well.


However, sometimes the doctor may tell you that they have found cancer. The most dreaded word in our society.  It's very common that once you hear the word “cancer” in your consultation your mind leaves the room! Your head denies what you have been told and spirals into millions of questions. Meanwhile, your doctor is still talking. You may be given a statement of what stage your cancer is at. Or they may not know without further tests.

Common questions people often search for are:

  • Is terminal cancer curable?
  • Is terminal cancer painful?
  • Is terminal cancer stage 4?
  • Can terminal cancer be cured?
  • And many more!

I cannot answer those questions. I am not a doctor, and every patient is different, the cancer that they are dealing with is different.

Terminal diagnoses

There are many illnesses that we can suffer which are not curable. A cancer diagnosis can be one of many diseases that can be given as a terminal diagnosis. However, a terminal illness and diagnosis don’t necessarily mean you have a few weeks or months to live.

Many people live with a terminal illness for many years. One famous person was Professor Stephen Hawkins. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in his early 20s. Life expectancy is two to five years. He lived until he was 76 years old.  

Everyone is different and no one knows for sure how long they have to live. Terminal diagnoses or not!

Living with a terminal diagnosis

In most cases, a terminal diagnosis is not an imminent diagnosis of death. You still have a lot of living left to do! This is where I can help you as an end-of-life coach.

Planning is important. Let’s get the dull, mundane and practical tasks out of the way first. We all should be thinking of these steps to help our loved ones after we have died whether we have terminal diagnoses or not. We are all going to die someday.

Practical steps

Talk about death and dying. Look for local 'death cafes' which are safe spaces to explore death and normalise talking about death. I often host death cafes, search events to find when my next one will take place.

  • Have you got a will? If not, think about creating one.
  • Have you thought about your treatment and when you would like it to stop?
  • Who is going to be your advocate if you are no longer able to communicate your wishes as the illness progresses
  • Have you thought about how you would like to be remembered? A funeral service, life celebration? A living funeral? How would you like your remains to be handled? A burial, cremation, resomation.  

These are difficult things to think about, let alone to talk with your loved ones about and yet they are important conversations. I can help you explore these topics and more. I can mediate between you and your family if you would find that helpful.

What next?

You still have a lot of living left to do! A common term people use is a 'bucket list'. A list of things you would like to experience before you die. Many of us don’t take this seriously! However, none of us is far away from our end. Grasp life, live it and love it!

Write a list of items that you would like to enjoy before you leave this world. Places to visit, people to see, and relationships that may wish to repair. Leave nothing off! If you want to go to the moon, add it to your list. OK, that may not be possible, but that doesn’t mean it's not a valid dream!

Then plan on what items you are going to experience with the physical and mental capacity that you have.

A strange gift

A terminal diagnosis can be a strange gift. When you receive it, you may not see it in these terms. It can be a powerful motivator for you to fulfil your ambitions, enable you to live in the now and maybe see the beauty in the world that you didn’t see before.

If you would like to learn more about living with a terminal diagnosis and my services as an end-of-life coach, please book a free discovery session and let's start a conversation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Blackpool FY1 & Manchester M1
Written by Phill Rowan Armstrong, Dip. ICF, MHFA | Bereavement, Grief and End of Life Coach
Blackpool FY1 & Manchester M1

Rowan is an End of Life Doula and Grief Coach. He helps people to navigate the wilderness of grief. Walking alongside you as you grieve creating a safe and brave space where you can truly explore your feelings and emotions with the fear of judgement at a time when you are most vulnerable. Helping your find your new normal after your loss

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