Nancy Jacobsen of San Francisco, California, didn’t give much thought to her own mortality until she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004. She recovered after surgery and radiation treatments, but the cancer returned 10 years later, shortly before she first heard of Compassion & Choices: “It was either online or because I picked up a magazine, and it definitely sparked my interest. I thought, ‘Wow; this is a really great organization.”
It wasn’t until early in 2015 when the End of Life Option Act was introduced that Jacobsen became actively involved, though. “By that time I had retired, so I had plenty of time on my hands,” Jacobsen says. “I got in touch with the local organizer when it was still fairly early in the campaign, so there was lots to do.” Jacobsen helped start the San Francisco action team and became one of the co-leads. A primary part of her work was to round people up to attend hearings in Sacramento in support of the bill, which went into effect June 9.
“We all felt compassionate and passionate about this issue – me with my own experience with cancer, a lot of other people with brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children; and I just got more motivated and inspired as the campaign went on. Then when we unexpectedly passed the law fairly quickly last summer, and Governor Brown signed it in October, it was like ‘Well now what am I going to do?’ I loved being part of the campaign!” So Jacobsen is now focused on helping to implement the law, reaching out to hospices, nursing homes, senior centers and hospitals doing general education around the bill. “Probably the most rewarding thing has been the satisfaction of moving something forward, something really critical for all Californians and someday all Americans – people of all ages and all ethnicities; it’s not just sick people and old people. So it’s really gratifying. It can also be a difficult issue because we’re talking about death, which isn’t the happiest thing on the planet, but it’s really important.”