Environmentalist, internationalist and Californian by way of Germany, longtime Compassion & Choices supporter Ray Perman recently joined our storytelling program to share his experiences with terminal cancer and accessing California’s medical aid in dying law.
Having been raised between Germany and the United States, Europeans’ more progressive attitudes around end-of-life care was part of Perman’s early influence to be part of the movement. Then five years ago, he was diagnosed with two types of stage-four cancer. Surgery soon after only kept tumors at bay for another year, after which their spreading throughout his body has been rapid.
He wrote to Governor Jerry Brown in favor of the End of Life Option Act and felt lucky to have a supportive doctor at Kaiser to help him through the process of accessing the law soon after it passed.
Perman treasures the open conversations with his two children and many friends his diagnosis and choices have inspired. “For my entire life, I always felt that when I go, I want to go quickly. Well, both my parents went quickly, and I’m realizing in going slowly, I have this blessed period, this last phase of life in which the waves have stopped, in which the noise has gone down and the value of conversations with my family members, with my friends, the exchange of a simple smile, the observation of a common courtesy in a hallway takes on ten times the emotional value,” he says. “I feel sorry for people who leave this earth and don’t have this magical period. My parents, anyone who goes fast, it’s almost like having to leave the theater early before you see the end of the film, and it’s the most beautiful part.”
Though Perman has his prescription, his pain is currently being managed through palliative treatments, so he has no immediate plan to take it. In the meantime, he hopes his experience can serve to inform others: “I want everyone to understand that it’s a beautiful law and it’s a helpful law, a psychologically comforting law. Not just to you as the patient, but to all the people around you it is a monumental favorable step in quality of life having control of the quality of its end.”