Why I Created a Sh*t List
Around this time last year, my best friend Tricia Antonini and I were celebrating her birthday and our 30 years of friendship. She has always been “my person”, regardless of anyone that came into and out of our lives. We were always each other’s constant. When I needed advice, she always knew what to say.
When my son was born, she was the first person to hold him. When I got breast cancer, twice, she was there to support me through it. And when my first husband died of brain cancer and my son was only four, she helped me manage through the tsunami. How was I so lucky to find her at the age of 15?
She was a cancer veteran herself, having survived Leukemia three times since the age of 23. So, when we were 35 and she was helping me navigate the waters of being a widow with a young child, she cemented her place forever as “my person”.
Although we had a couple of months to get some affairs in order before my husband passed away, we missed some things in our planning. I remember the night my bestie and I spent two hours trying to crack his PlayStation password after he was gone, as I couldn’t get to any of our content without it. We couldn’t believe at the age of 35 I was having to deal with this, and it made me feel very uncertain and helpless, but at the same time we realized how unprepared I had been even with the notice we had.
When “my person” was diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer and things started to progress, we had to spend time having difficult conversations about what was to come. But I wanted to ensure nothing was missed this time, so I knew what we had to do. I called it the SH*T LIST. The list of things you never want to have to talk about or may not be top of mind, such as care planning or digital asset planning. In my early 40’s, I was dealing with the very premature death of someone I cared about so much from cancer again, which seemed so unfair and yet, also an opportunity to ensure we didn’t miss anything this time.
It’s an impossible discussion that needs to happen and a list of topics that you may have pondered but never dreamed that you’d be deciding at such a young age when facing the reality of dying. After my bestie and I spent time going through and making a plan for her ‘SH*T LIST’, it did provide some peace to her, to me and to her family as we understood what was important to her, and we could refer to her list when we couldn’t remember the exact things she had shared. Decision making isn’t easy in the best of medical times and these types of conversations are very hard to initiate, but having them can make it a bit easier on everyone.
Having these hard conversations done and documented, we were able to put those thoughts into a box and focus on what was important during the last time we had with her – hugs, laughter and lots of love. She passed away last summer and the world will never be the same, but looking back, I am grateful that the legacy she wanted to leave behind is what we were able to bring to life.
Click here to download our new resource: The Sh*t List, that Tasha, along with Rethink’s MBC Advisory Board, helped create so you can navigate the difficult decisions that come with end-of-life care.
Tasha Westerman works as a Senior Vice President, People Services for Long View Systems, where she’s been helping their over 1200 employees since 2002. She spends much of her free time advocating for young breast cancer patients through her volunteer work for Rethink Breast Cancer. She has chaired Boobyball Calgary eight times and currently she is the Co-Chair of the MBC Advisory Board.
In November 2012, Tasha was named one of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 under 40 and in January of 2011, she was named by the Calgary Herald as one of their 20 people to watch out for. She is also featured in the Canadian Screen award winning documentary “About Her” as one of nine young women sharing their unique cancer journey.
When she’s not busy working or bringing cancer to its knees, Tasha spends time with her husband, kids & family, who if you were to ask her, is the real reason she does all she does.