(CBS) I'll never forget that day in July 2009. I had learned earlier in the month that I had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, and they wanted to do a liver biopsy to confirm the strain of breast cancer and to decide on treatment. When the prep nurse called before my operartion, she told me to bring a living will. I had no idea why, but I already knew what I wanted.
I watch "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy," but now it was me actually signing the hospital forms. It all seemed surreal. I checked the DNR (do not resuscitate) box and had it notarized. This was my decision.
The morning of the surgery, I went to see my oncologist and handed him a long letter. He asked what it was. I told him I had been asked to bring a living will with my health wishes. He looked me and said, "You don't need this and you aren't going anywhere."
I proceeded to share my wishes anyway.
"I'm 36 years old, and I want to make everything clear right now. No pain, no suffering, no extending my life unless you know I can be saved in a manner where my life isn't debilitated. I would only ask that you keep me alive until my closest are surrounding me to say good-bye, but again, no extreme measures."
What if a terminally patient doesn't sign a living will? Who chooses how the patient's care will proceed? Is the patient being kept alive because loved ones aren't ready to let him/her go? Because the doctor isn't ready?
The debate has been going on for years and no doubt will continue for many more. But as for me, I don't want to suffer. Forget about end-of-life pamphlets. At the end of the day, there is no easy way to deal with death. Everyone handles it differently. No emotion is "right" or "wrong."
I've already been through so much since being diagnosed with cancer - especially hearing doctor tell me I only had a year. But here I am, almost 19 months later and fighting for my life. I plan to keep fighting for my 3-year-old daughter, my husband, family and friends. But when it's my time, it's my time.
I want to die in peace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meredith Israel, 37, was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in June, 2009. She says she's in the fight of her life, determined to prevail for the sake of her family, including her 3-year-old daughter, Niomi, and her husband, Gary. Meredith found her breast cancer through self-examination and a mammogram. Since being diagnosed, she has raised more than $100,000 for breast cancer research and has been a vocal proponent of self-exams and early detection.