Carrie Snyder speaks about facing terminal illness

In case you missed it, Carrie Snyder spoke to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee this week, discussing her own terminal illness and end of life options available in Utah. The text of her speech is below. To listen to her and others testimony, click here.

HB 264 End of Life Options Act, Utah State Legislature                                            July 13, 2016   

Thank you Mr. Chair and Committee Members for having me here to testify on behalf of myself, my family and other terminally ill people who share my beliefs. 

My name is Carrie Snyder and I was diagnosed two years ago with stage four terminal cancer. During these past two years, I have taken every pill, pushed every medicine prescribed to me thru my veins, signed up as a guinea pig for scientist and drug companies. The cancer has receded, giving me small breaks and the cancer has surged, bringing on new pain.  I’ve done all this and continue to do so, because I want to live. I have made choices that others might not choose. But if I hadn’t I would surely be gone by now. But I want to be here another month, another week, another minute as long as I can find the joy in spite of the suffering. And, if you are worried that I am missing out on the beautification of suffering, believe me, you cannot exist with cancer without suffering. It doesn’t just happen at the end.  

My family, who is here today, and I have had two amazing years to talk about life, live life, and we have learned to have the difficult conversations about death. I say amazing, because although we have always been a very close and loving family, we are now bomb proof; living a most authentic life. We are making dying a positive experience for the four kids being affected by this, ages 13 to 29.  They are not waiting around to say goodbye to me at the end, they are an integral part of my daily life. Even the two who do not live here come frequently to show their love, rub my back during the worse times, and walk with me when I feel strong. They all have become sensitive, empathic individuals whose understanding and compassion is now a permanent part of who they are and I could not be more proud of them. Our extended family, on both sides have shared unselfishly of their time and love, although all live far away. 

Some folks are surprised at how easily we talk about death, and the journey we have taken as a family.  Why deny what we know…that the day will come when this cancer takes what I have left and releases me from this life. And I also know, because we have talked about it, that in no way do they want me to suffer inhumanely at the end, just to spend another few weeks or days where I will most likely be a fraction of myself; incapable of giving them any more of “me.“ Because as Utah’s end of life choices currently stand, I will be lost to starvation, dehydration and  morphine. I have heard opponents say that the Utah End of Life Options Act will hurt families. It’s hard to imagine that this Bill will do anything but inspire conversations, potentially difficult conversations, but ones that must be had. 

I know this option isn’t for everyone. We all make good choices that are completely different than someone else’s good choices. There are many right answers. As humans we have been given the unique ability to reason, allowing us to consciously make sense of things, apply logic and change beliefs, attitudes and traditions with the capacity for freedom and self-determination.   The goal today is to understand through reasoning that there can be another way for the end of life to look; one that looks more humane to many of us.

It’s your job as a legislative body, if I may say, to make sure choices are available to terminally ill patients living in Utah. Sadly, it is possible to marginalize us, leaving us on the periphery, without options that we feel are just.  Death is our common denominator. How we talk about it, suffer thru it to the end is as individual as we all are.
By denying this Utah End of Life Options Act, you are depriving a freedom, a choice, a right for those who desperately want this.  By passing this Act, no one is going to die that isn’t already going to die, but certainly many people can imagine a less painful end to their life. And my family, who I love and trust, will know I passed on my own terms and am at peace. I am the only one who can say when my spirit is free, and I have suffered enough.

Thank you.