I have a matching tattoo with my 17-year-old daughter that reads: "It's not zero."
My tattoo is in her handwriting on my left arm; her tattoo is in my handwriting on her left arm. Because, despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year, it's not zero days left for me. It's not zero-percent hope. It's not a zero chance that I will get to see her graduate high school.
But I also recognize that there is zero chance I will beat this cancer. And that's why I've become an outspoken advocate for passage of legislation that provides terminally ill patients with the option to seek a prescription from their doctor for medication to end their life peacefully.
The news that I had Stage 4, incurable, inoperable metastatic adenocarcinoma of the small intestine came as a shock. My family and I were in a state of disbelief. We have gone from shock to denial and anger, to negotiating, and finally to acceptance. But it's not a linear path.
Being surrounded by loving people makes me feel less afraid. Human connection, I have found, is the meaning of life. For me, this also applies to how I want to die. I don't want a long, drawn-out end. I didn't pick this road, but I'm on it, and I want control in deciding when I've suffered enough.
I want as many pretty good days as possible, very few bad days and then a quick end, surrounded by love — hopefully many years from now (or at least many months).
But I know I won't be here in 2030. My original prognosis was one year from diagnosis. Now, with receiving chemo every two weeks and responding well to that, my current prognosis is estimated for the summer of 2025.
Because of that, I need Minnesota to pass a medical aid-in-dying bill soon ("Whose decision at death's door," Nov. 12). I want to be empowered to make my own end-of-life decisions, not having the medical community fighting to keep me alive one more painful day. I need to be allowed to pick the day and manner and have my wife and children at my side.
I will not slowly, painfully, inexorably pass away. As it should be, I will be in charge of my own passing.
I've been fortunate to have access to great care. But even with my phenomenal medical team, my options in Minnesota are limited. I'll never be "cancer free" or in remission. And at some point, the chemo will stop being effective, and either my cancer will continue spreading or the tumors will grow in size.
I had never really thought about medical aid in dying before I got sick. But after my diagnosis, it became personal, and I became frustrated by the fact that Minnesota does not yet allow its dying residents to decide if this choice is right for them.
Residents of 10 states can make that end-of-life decision. It's not a partisan issue, though in most cases Democrats have taken the lead. I'm a Republican, and I know that privately most Republicans agree with my position. But unfortunately, it's been difficult for Republican elected officials to openly join us.
I believe it's wrong to withhold this option from terminally ill adults of sound mind. How dare anyone tell me that I can't have a peaceful, painless end to my suffering? Or dictate that I must travel to another state for this option? I should be able to have my local oncology team, who know me and my condition, prescribe medical aid in dying instead of having to meet a whole new set of doctors in a different state.
Because medical aid in dying is currently a crime in our state, only the state lawmakers who represent us in St. Paul can make change. If you agree that Minnesotans should have the freedom to make our own health care decisions and control our bodily autonomy at the end of life, contact your legislators and the governor's office today and ask them to enact this bill in 2024.
Jeff McComas was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of the small intestine in January 2023. He lives in Woodbury with his wife and two children.