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Things to Do Before a Procedure That You Might Forget

Surgeries and procedures are common when treating bladder cancer. While all procedures carry risk, many of them are minor, and should not be cause for great anxiety. However, if you are feeling nervous (or even if you aren’t) there are some simple steps you can take prior to your surgery that can put your mind at ease, and can help you and your family if something should happen to you while you during your procedure. Some of these steps are obvious, but some are things that you might not normally consider.

Step one: Make a will

While this may feel morbid or unnecessary, especially if you are young, this is something that everyone should do.1 When a loved one dies, (expectedly or unexpectedly) families can be thrown into chaos, and grief can cause even the most rational people to behave in thoughtless ways. Wills protect your property and can save your family (and friends) from a lot of needless fighting.2 Choose the person you want to be responsible for carrying your will out (this person is called the “executor”) and then choose where you want your money to go, and if you have children who are minors or dependent adult children, choose the people whom you want to take care of them. While some of these decisions may be fairly obvious, some may not. Have a conversation with your friends and loved ones about some of your wishes.

There are multiple sources for you to go to when you want to make your will.2 You can create wills with a lawyer in person, or there are online sources for will planning as well. When your will is finished, make sure that people you trust know where it is.

Step two: Create a living will or advanced directive

Advanced directives are important if something happens while you are in surgery.1 These are the documents that discuss how you as a person should be handled if there is an emergency.3 Do you want to be intubated, even temporarily, if you lose your ability to breathe on your own? Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating while you are in surgery? If you die, do you want your organs donated? Who do you want to see your medical records? Who do you trust to make medical decisions for you if you can’t? (This person is known as your “proxy”).3 These are all important questions you will answer in a living will.

Every state has its own legal advanced directive/living will form.3 You can find your state’s form here. Start by filling out this form. It will need to witnessed by another adult (over 18) and notarized (you may be able to have a form notarized at the post office, your bank or another government office).3 Make sure your healthcare team has a copy of your living will, and if you decide not to be resuscitated, ask your team to help you fill out a “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR” form prior to surgery. This will go in your chart to let your team know your wishes in the case of an emergency.

Step three: Name a Power of Attorney (POA)

A power of attorney is someone that you trust to take care of your finances while you are unable to do so.1,4 This is someone who has access to your accounts and can pay your bills, file your taxes, and manage your accounts and investments while you are unable to do so. This person only has access to your accounts while you are alive; if you should die, their ability to access your money no longer exists. POAs can have different kinds of responsibilities, depending on how you set up the relationship.4 Again, declaring a power of attorney can be done in person with a lawyer, or there are online services that can help you do this as well.

Step four: Gather your important paperwork

Would your family be able to find all your important paperwork if something happened to you? We have already discussed that your family should know where your will is, but they should also know where your advanced directive, papers for your POA, important legal documents (birth certificate, Social Security Card,) and medical records are.1,5 It is also important that your family can access electronic records such as utility bills, financial accounts like credit cards, and bank accounts. They should also have access to your professional contacts such as your attorney, accountant/financial advisor, and insurance agents.5

Think about a secure place to write down contacts, digital passwords, PINs and even combinations of locks/safes or copies of safety deposit box keys. You may feel more secure giving this information to your attorney so that it may only be accessed if needed.5

Step five: Write some letters

While this will not protect your legal or financial obligations, it is important to let people know how you feel, in case you don’t get the change to again. You may want to write a letter and let your family know how you want to be remembered, or how you want your funeral or memorial service to go. You may want to let someone know you love them, or that you forgive them, or ask to be forgiven. You may just want to remind someone of something good, or pass on your secret recipe for the world’s best chocolate cake. It’s okay to write letters to people as though you may never see them again, even if it feels overdramatic. There are also online sources that allow you to begin these letters and continue to add to them as time goes on. They can then be shared at a time that you can predetermine.1

While any procedure, even low-risk ones, can produce anxiety, these steps can help reduce some of the worries you may have about “What if something goes wrong?” Even if you don’t have a procedure planned, these are good steps to take at any point in your life and can be especially important for those who are living with bladder cancer. Working on these steps can open some conversations about what you want both during treatments and after you die and whom you trust to follow through with your wishes.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The BladderCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. I’m About To Have Surgery: Pre-Surgery Cheat Sheet. Everplans. https://www.everplans.com/articles/im-about-to-have-surgery-pre-surgery-cheat- sheet. Published 2018. Accessed October 28, 2018.
  2. All You Need To Know About Creating A Will. Everplans. https://www.everplans.com/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-creating-a-will. Published 2018. Accessed October 28, 2018.
  3. All You Need To Know About Advance Directives. Everplans. https://www.everplans.com/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-advance- directives. Published 2018. Accessed October 28, 2018.
  4. All You Need To Know About Naming A Power Of Attorney. Everplans. https://www.everplans.com/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-naming-a- power-of-attorney. Published 2018. Accessed October 28, 2018.
  5. All You Need To Know About Organizing Important Documents. Everplans. https://www.everplans.com/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-organizing- important-documents. Published 2018. Accessed October 28, 2018.

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