Medical Assistance In Dying (M.A.I.D) takes love, courage and bravery like none other

Medical Assistance In Dying


My grandmother Silvana Santarelli was diagnosed with terminal cancer just five weeks ago and since that time and watching a loved one rapidly decline in health and spirit, it makes you start looking at life in a different lens.

My Grandmother was nothing short of the epidemy of someone who has lived their life to the fullest and truly lived in the moment. So much of her life was like a beautiful novel, filled with love of family, friends, travel, culture, music, laughter and romance. I can honestly say that I have never met anyone in my life who truly lived as my grandmother did. She saw so much of the world, spoke many languages, married a handsome Canadian in the army and then moved to Canada to live the Canadian dream raising three truly amazing humans (one of which is my wonderful mom). She spent the better part of her life working in customer service and truly impacted everyone who she came into contact with for the better.

Five weeks ago my grandmother was taken to the hospital by my aunt due to pain in her shoulder and that’s when she was given the news that no one wants to ever hear muttered from a doctor, that she had cancer, or as she put it “I have the big C”. The following days were full of tests to determine a prognosis and to what degree had the cancer spread. Unfortunately the news wasn’t good news and she was told that the cancer had spread into most of her vital organs and it was terminal, with only a few more weeks to live.

Most of us have been effected by cancer or have had a family member effected by cancer. I myself have had a couple scares throughout my life with high concentration of cancerous cells in my uterus, and hearing anything with the word cancer attached is the most frightening words you can ever hear from a doctor.

I now have experienced both sides. I have seen the unbelievable strength, resilience and bravery it takes to fight cancer head on as well as seeing the other side of a terminal diagnoses and how that same unbelievable strength, resilience and bravery applies to Medical Assisted In Death (M.A.I.D).

My grandmothers quality of life had been ripped out from under her so swiftly and in these last five weeks the pain had become unbearable. When there is nothing that can be done to save a life or even make those last weeks that she would have had on this earth more comfortable my grandmother chose to apply for M.A.I.D which was put into place in Ontario in the last few years for these exact circumstances. To allow you to pass away painlessly, peacefully and with your dignity. Seeing a loved one in pain and knowing there is nothing that can be done to relieve it, or make it better is the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life thus far.

Once my grandmother was approved she had 10 days to contemplate and still make the decision to either go through with the procedure to end her life or not to. In those ten days she had good moments, not so good moments ( mostly due to bad reactions to the pain meds) but the pain and suffering was always there, either lingering or loud and in your face. Even until the very moment before the procedure is done the doctor is required by law to ask if you still are sure you want to proceed with the procedure and my grandmother was confident with her decision right till the end. She had lived this beautiful life that she lived her way,and wanted to end it the same, not overpowered by the evils of cancer but with the grace of science to help end her and her families suffering.

The actual hours leading up to the procedure were the most emotional but beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced with my family. We played my grandmothers favourite songs and we all sang and cried together. We laughed at her witty humour and we were able to express all of our gratitude for what our grandmother gave to us all throughout her life.

As I said when you experience something like this you start thinking about life and the end of life and my grandmother passed away in the most beautiful way honouring the beautiful life that she lived, surrounded by her loved ones, and painless in her sleep. What more can you hope and wish for someone you love or for yourself.

In those last moments of my grandmothers life she brought all of her family together in one room supporting each other like we never knew we could before. My cousin and I cried and we breathed together and held each other tight knowing that our grandmother would soon be at peace. Those moments are hard to explain because they are mostly felt. I can still feel the emotion of the doctor, nurses, of my family in that room. I can hear in my head when its silent the song that was playing on shuffle at the time of her passing, “Please Release Me” by Engelbert Humperdnick.

And then you find peace at different moments through your grief.

My grandmother bravely passed away Jan 3, 2019 at 3:50pm at the Queensway Carleton Hospital and when my mother spoke those words I realized that this was the first sign that she would be with me always.

I gave birth directly underneath her room where she passed at the same hospital August 7, 2018 at exactly 3:50am and my original due date was August the 3rd.

I know that for the rest of our lives Silvana will be looking after us and helping lead us in the direction of happiness just as she lived her life.

I am forever grateful for my grandmother gifting me with a life full of the most wonderful family and the wonderful memories we have shared throughout my life.

Thank you to the wonderful Nurses and Doctors who cared for my grandmother with so much care and compassion during the last few weeks of her life, we are forever grateful for you.



8 Replies to “Medical Assistance In Dying (M.A.I.D) takes love, courage and bravery like none other”

    1. Thank you so much Elyse, I know you’ve just lost your mother not to long ago and my heart aches for you. On one hand being a first time mom and dealing with all that comes with that on top of grief can be challenging at times but what I practice in therapy is to see the tremendous value in having these little wonders in our lives because they make us live in the moment ❤️


  1. I whispered in your grandmothers ear that day how lucky I was to be part of the family and that she was so right when she said the greatest gift she had was her children who like you are amazing people as individuals but even greater as a family.

    Thanks so much for writing this Vanessa it is so beautiful. You are a gift. Silvana lives on inside all whom she touched with her warmth, straight talk and quick witted humor.

    Much Love



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