Christa Wilkin has taken matters into her own hands, preparing for her own death as she faces terminal cancer
Christa Wilkin says June 16, 2016, was both the best and worst day of her life. That’s because it marked the birth of her son — and her cervical cancer diagnosis.
“My son found the cancer basically. I was pregnant and the doctors wouldn’t have found it otherwise,” the 34-year-old mom of one tells PEOPLE. “I went into early labor and that’s when they found the tumor on my cervix. It was a blessing for us to have a child, and yet a surprise … because [the diagnosis] came completely out of the blue.”
Wilkin began treatment immediately after giving birth to Austin. And, by July 2017, her cancer had stabilized.
“The doctors said it was curable and gave me the most aggressive treatment they had and expected a really good prognosis,” she recalls. “So you just kind of go with it, you go along and you’re like, ‘Okay! This is gonna be curable.’ “
So, Wilkin and her husband, 34-year-old Chris, enjoyed life with their toddler son at their Burlington, Ontario, Canada, home. The family expected the best, but their world was turned upside down in April when Wilkin learned that her cancer had returned, and had spread to her lungs.
“I was surprised and heartbroken. I don’t really have any symptoms … so you have disbelief,” she says of the moments she learned the news. “It’s been hard. My loved ones have been really supportive, sending me thoughtful messages to motivate me. But it’s something that I have to do by myself.”
Doctors told the couple that Wilkin’s cancer was treatable, but not curable. She says she doesn’t know how long she has left to live.
“It’s scary not knowing how long you have to live,” she shares through tears. “The hardest for me is thinking about when my son grows up, am I gonna be there? When he graduates or if he wants to get married or have kids. Projecting into the future is hard if you don’t know that future’s gonna happen.”
With a cloud of uncertainty over her head, Wilkin says planning for her death has been comforting. She had made arrangements to donate her body to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She’s decided where she wants to die and has even written her own eulogy.
“Planning something helps you feel like you’re in control again. Planning what would happen when I die is something that sort of gave me control over my life,” she says. “I want to give people a roadmap for what should happen when I die.”
She adds: “It gives me comfort and some sort of control over the process, because a lot of these decisions are out of your control. The outcome’s out of your control but at least if you could have comfort in knowing there’s one thing you have control over, you feel a sense of certainty.”
Wilkin shares her experiences on her blog, Nevertheless She Persisted, and recently shared her story with Love What Matters. Along with a friend, and fellow cancer patient, Wilkin launched a YouTube series called What to expect when you’re not expecting cancer.