My wish after being diagnosed with and surviving cancer, was that when it is my time to die, I want to just die rapidly. I don’t want to live to contemplate my death and my losses again. My father died the way I want to die. He was sitting in his recliner one night watching TV, and yawned. My mom asked him if he wanted to go to bed, and he said in a bit. Then he quit breathing and his heart stopped. He just died. He didn’t have to contemplate losing his life, his loved ones, his future. He was very fortunate.
But as a nurse I am always looking at statistics. Unfortunately, 90% of us will die slow deaths from chronic disease. Deaths like my father’s are only 10% of all deaths. Only one in ten are blessed with those deaths, dying in your sleep in your bed…..
As I have been in the cancer community so long, I have communicated with many who are dying of cancer. As I want to support cancer patients, I want to support ALL of them. I want to help those seeking treatment, but I also want to help those who will succumb to their disease. I have made some friends I have lost to appendix cancer.
In order to get better at helping those who would die from cancer, I worked as a volunteer for a hospice organization for 6 months. I worked as a respite aid. I stayed with cancer patients while their families went out for dinner or to appointments. Sometimes families just needed to get away for a few hours.
I learned how much hospice can offer. The hospice I worked with offered nursing aids who would bath the patient, change bed linens, feed patients and even cook meals. Nurses saw the patients often and were on call 24/7. Patients were never allowed to be in pain or to be anxious. Counseling was offered as were clergy services. Hospice workers and volunteers would help patients make memory boxes for those they were leaving behind. The hospice offered grief counseling to families for a year after the patient had passed. Patients last days were made comfortable spiritually, emotionally and physically.
The sad thing I’ve learned about hospice is that usually patients enter hospice only days before they die, when they could have had hospice services for 6 months. Hospice services help both the family members and the surviving loved ones. When I know I am nearing my end times, I want hospice care. For what it’s worth, in my cancer journey I learned of one woman who entered hospice (to enter a doctor has to say they expect you to die within 6 months), and she didn’t die! She lived for 8 years with hospice services! At least with her hospice, once you were in you could never be discharged!