Hospice and Palliative Care
Last updated: February 2021
This past week I was given the opportunity to sit with my twin sister's nurse and go over her hospice and palliative care plan. As uncomfortable and emotionally challenging as it was, we got through it.
It also made me realize that I hadn’t had this conversation with my loved ones as I live with metastatic breast cancer. I have said repeatedly that I would know when I was going to pass away two weeks in advance, and I would create postcards to be mailed out when the time comes.
End of life planning
Unbeknownst to me, my twin sister had very similar ideas without our even having the conversation. Neither one of us was interested in homecoming services or long memorial services. Both of us had come to the conclusion that memorial services were more for the living than for the deceased.
Pros of hospice and palliative care
Watching how hospice and palliative care workers take care of their patients, I found it rewarding and disturbing at the same time. Rewarding because they come to your home to provide care, and your meds are delivered right to your door. No more long lines at the pharmacy to collect your meds or being told that your prescriptions aren’t quite ready, come back in thirty minutes to an hour. The doctor places your order and less than two hours later your medications are hand-delivered to you. If you have a medical issue, a nurse is dispatched to your home immediately.
Cons of hospice and palliative care
The downside is the doctors will no longer go the extra mile out of the way for you. Once you’re placed on hospice and palliative care, they feel as if they’ve done everything that they can do. And that’s the difficult part. Watching my twin go to the hospital and come back home with little to nothing being done is heart-wrenching.
Facing my own mortality
Hospice and palliative care have me rethinking my medical situation altogether. Even though I’m told that I have stage IV metastatic breast cancer, do I continue to fight, do I just give up, or do I act as if there’s nothing wrong? How does one really fight when it seems as if all of the medical odds are against one? How does one face this thing called death with the grace of a woman and not with the grief of a child who has been told "no."
Regardless feeling grateful to be alive
Each day, I find myself at two very extreme odds. On one end of the spectrum, I’m discovering that I have the strength that I never knew that I had and on the other end of the spectrum I can feel the toll of this stage 4 illness and other medical issues tearing down my body. Breathing doesn’t come as easy as it once did. With every sudden movement, I can hear my bones snap, crack, and pop. However, most days I’m extremely strong mentally. While there are other days that I feel like covering up my head and sleeping all day or binge-watching some ridiculous reality TV show. And then there are those days when a loved one passes away or a friend or even a celebrity that I once admired. And it’s at those times that I’m grateful to be six feet above ground rather than six feet under.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.