When my sister was diagnosed with stage IV Adenocarcinoma in the fall of 2014 the whole world stopped. It was completely out of the blue, unexpected. We had no family history of cancer until she was diagnosed. She was young and we were blindsided by her illness.
My sister, Barbara always looked on the bright side! She had a free spirit and loved all of the little things that life has to offer. She enjoyed walking the beach, feeling the breeze, hearing the crashing of the waves in the ocean. She enjoyed the laughter of children and spending time with her family. These things made her feel alive! When she was diagnosed I knew that my experience as a nurse would afford me the opportunity to help her make some decisions about her future. As a nurse with Hospice experience I knew that I had a job to do. I had to take the role of Advocate for Barbara. I knew that I could give her the gift of being informed, of being in charge of her own life/options. I was determined that she would have the information needed to decide how the last few months of her life would be lived. She explored her medical options… which frankly, weren’t really options. Her disease had progressed to the point where chemotherapy would only make her sicker, offer little benefit and drain any joy that she might otherwise experience in her last days. Having “the conversation” with my sister was not easy…we both knew it was necessary though.
Barbara made the choice to enjoy her life and the things that brought her life meaning for as long as she could. Her choice was Hospice which offered not only comfort but the kindness and generosity of a professional staff who had her best interest and quality of life as their focus. I will always be grateful that Barbara was able to enjoy having her family and friends with her in those final weeks. She was able to enjoy the sound of the ocean, the nature outdoors and even her favorite chicken sandwich as her disease progressed instead of the debilitation that often comes with treatment. Treatment at her late stage of disease would have only robbed any joy that she had left and would not have extended her life to any measurable degree. Her choice allowed her to maintain control and spend time doing things which were most important to her. Barbara’s final sunset was on November 19, 2014. I am proud to say she lived her life well in those final weeks and her choice allowed her to have a full life until the end.
I want to encourage the reader to have “the conversation” with a loved one or friend in need. You will be glad you did!