Clarence and Judith Pettersen on vacation in Banff, Alta. in 2016, before his cancer diagnosis. (Photo courtesy of Judith Pettersen)

I remember the day in May 2017 when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When the oncologist left the room, I turned to Clarence and said, “There’s been a mix-up. This isn’t your file.” I meant every word. Maybe that’s how it is when you’ve been married a while and life has been generous to you.

Perhaps a sense of disbelief is nature’s way of softening the blow. But how can you not notice the rapid decline of the man you’ve been with since the age of 19, the one who makes you laugh and is still the most interesting person you know? Denial might be a soft cushion, but it falls apart when the pain gets real.

Six months after his diagnosis, we met with the MAID team for the first time in a tiny conference room at their Winnipeg office.

I was not the one suffering from cancer. I didn’t have to swallow all the medication or put up with hospital stays and weekly appointments. And yet, you can’t cut the partner of the dying person out of the deal. That tearing asunder happens only with death.

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