Having an emergency physician explain to you and your family in a hospital room that your mom most likely has stage 4 lung cancer is quite a shock, to say the least. I experienced this firsthand on September 30, 2015. The look on the physician’s face proved how hard it was for him to deliver that kind of devastating news to mom, dad and all four of their children. He delivered the sad news with compassion and kindness. Having a hospice discussion with your mom and dad is an even bigger shock when you realize it is really about their choice and not yours.
Witnessing the frightened look on your parent’s faces when the diagnosis is given is heart wrenching. Figuring out that they will fight cancer to the bitter end is devastating when you have a career in hospice and you know the hard battle they will have to endure for the precious time they have left. The mental aspect of knowing you have a staged cancer is anguish no one can understand unless they, too, have dealt with it. I’ve always had sympathy for families I’ve helped over the past years with hospice education, but now I can truly share in their sorrow with sincere empathy. I have learned that the compassionate loving care hospice gives to patients is about respecting the choice people make to receive it or not. My dad, siblings, husband and I watched as she took her last breath in the hospital. This is not what she wanted. Witnessing this broke all of our hearts. My mom decided to choose hospice a little too late.
Each oncology appointment I accompanied with my parents was to lend support and be an extra set of eyes and ears for them. I often explain to families I meet who are deciding to choose hospice care that the hospice team is an extra set of eyes and ears for them, whether it be in an assisted living, nursing home, or wherever they call home. I also tell them that hospice allows the family to be a family. To be a husband, wife, son, daughter, etc… Let us do the hard stuff, so you can enjoy time with your loved one. I took on the roll as caregiver along with my dad, and because hospice never got a chance to start, I feel sad that we couldn’t just be the husband and daughter. My parents were married 55 years, and neither could let go, so they decided as a couple to try chemo.
We were optimistic at first because the first treatment round shrunk the tumors 50% in both lungs. She tolerated the chemo well. The week of Christmas the three of us were sitting in the oncologist’s office when he delivered the sad news that the chemo was no longer working. She was too weak to continue treatment. He gave us hope that if she gained weight, she could try a different type of chemo. Of course, she gained weight, seven pounds and we were excited! The second round of chemo was scheduled for three Monday’s in a row then a three-week reprieve to rest. After the first Monday, I knew we were in trouble. She experienced nausea and vomiting, lost her appetite, and the fatigue was unbearable. The second Monday was worse. I saw my mom declining and wanted so desperately to give her the quality end of life care that she deserved by bringing in my hospice team, however, she was still not giving up. My dad was exhausted mentally and physically as a caregiver.
He was tender and loving to his wife but still had not grasped the fact that she was dying. The third Monday of treatment wreaked havoc with her tiny body. Don’t wait to bring in a Hospice team. Consultations with Treasure Valley Hospice are free, click here, to schedule an appointment with our care providers.