After nearing death, Susan Binau is making tough conversations easier to have
ORLANDO, Fla. – When it comes to talking about death or having to face it, a lot people have a hard time deciding what to do next, but a Central Florida woman is doing what she can to help make the conversation less stressful.
Whether the talk is sparked by someone suffering from a terminal illness or being involved in a severe accident, it's a pretty tough topic that the Orlando woman is addressing after having gone through a few near-death experiences of her own.
"Facing the unknown, not knowing whether I was going to live or die, was the worst part," Susan Binau, founder of Women Fighting Cancer in Florida, said.
Binau said she has come face to face with death several times.
"The cancer, I consider one of those times where you have to face your own mortality," the mother of four said.
The Denmark native survived stage 3 colon cancer 12 years ago, but in 2017, a bowel obstruction once again put her at the edge of death.
"It almost took my life, and it took me one and a half years to recover from that," Binau said.
After her recovery, a serious car crash almost took her life.
"That, of all my health scares, has been probably the most soul-shaking experience. What I actually had to do was dig deep within my soul, and that's when I created Serenity Academy," Binau recalled.
With her courses and videos offering detailed information, the 55-year-old serves as a guide to others facing difficult situations.
"I wanted to convert all the books I've been writing, self-help books for patients and loved ones and children who are losing parents or siblings," Binau said.
The program offers advice and information on how to communicate and prepare for a dignified passing.
"She is definitely getting results. This online opportunity is gonna be so critical for so many people because a lot of times that you're diagnosed, you talk about treatment plans and survival rates -- even when you get a diagnosis like that, you don't hear everything in the doctor's office, and then you go away and you're left with knowing what your diagnosis is but still having so many more questions and not knowing what to do next," Kati Dukes, a 36-year-old mother of two, said.
Dukes is currently battling Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After her diagnosis last year, Dukes said it was difficult to find support groups.
"When I went to do my research, of course, online, I couldn't find anything. The closest thing I could find was two options, and it was one meeting a month on Thursday night in downtown Orlando," Dukes said.
The second option was to have phone conversations.
"The thing is, sometimes you don't want to talk. Sometimes you just want to, kinda, be surrounded by other people and listen to their encouraging stories," Dukes said.
She said it helps to know your friends, family and community are supporting you, but you may still just need someone who truly understands your situation.
"You kinda need someone to go, 'This sucks.' You know? 'It's hard, and this is what I'm dealing with, too,'" Dukes said.
Binau said she hopes to eventually work with hospices and hospitals.
"It's not until the day that we or someone we love are diagnosed with a life-threatening or terminal illness that we realize that we don't really have a language that can help us to talk about difficult things, like, what are your wishes for end of life? It's hard for the loved one to really ask the sick, dying person. We just need information that is valid, that is useful, that is helping to, you know, reduce the stress in the search for answers," Binau said.
Binau has spent 10 years working on these projects in hopes that cancer patients and people dealing with a terminal illness don't feel alone through their journey with their disease.
She said having a plan B, especially if you have small children, is not only important, but also the responsible thing to do. She believes having that conversation early is critical and helps relieve some stress.