by Gail Hamm, program director
We can all think of words that have a positive meaning for one person and a negative meaning for another. For some people hospice means “I’m giving up” or “he’s giving up”. I have heard this over and over and just read it again in a journal article. But I believe that choosing hospice is a very active choice, not a passive one. It means taking charge of one’s life, and most of us would agree that is a positive thing.
I have vivid memories of working with a gentleman with lung cancer and his wife when I worked at a local hospice. “Matt” chose not to seek treatment. He went on disability and used his last year to be with his wife and grandkids, take care of his home, and spend time with his friends.
During the year I worked with Matt and his family, Matt continued to live. He no longer went to his former job, but he kept busy at home, doing the things he loved. His grandchildren were frequently in the home, and I was able to spend time with them.
Matt’s quality of life was good for a number of months, but gradually there were changes. He could no longer hoist bags of mulch into his truck. He mowed the small patch of grass by his home, over 2 days, not in an hour’s time. Eventually, his wife mowed the grass.
Matt had time to ponder life and death. I was privileged to be a witness as he was baptized by the hospice chaplain in his home before becoming bedfast. Eventually, Matt was able to communicate less and slept through many of my visits while I conversed with his wife, listening and supporting her in the final weeks.
I never thought Matt gave up when he opted for hospice. He chose to be in charge. And he remained in charge, directing his final days, living and dying by his terms.
Cancer Services works with our clients through every step of their diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and at times, end of life care. Sometimes, in spite of the best treatment, there comes a point when no further treatment will change the course of the disease. Cancer Services’ advocates work with clients and their families to understand their options and support them in their decisions to take charge of their lives.
Casting for Recovery and Cancer Services will present information regarding their programs at the Conquering Breast Cancer support group on Tuesday, February 21, starting at 6:30 pm. The group meets at Parkview Comprehensive Cancer Center, 11141 Parkview Plaza Drive, Entrance #4.
Casting for Recovery is a non-profit support and educational program for breast cancer survivors. Women of all ages are invited to attend the fly-fishing, outdoor retreats at no cost. The organization provides counseling and medical education and incorporates fly-fishing to promote physical and emotional healing. Retreats are two-and-a-half day events and take place May 18-20 and September 28-30. For more information, visit www.castingforrecovery.org.
Following the Casting for Recovery presentation at 7:00pm, Gail Hamm, program director for Cancer Services, will present “Cancer Services-Programs You Won’t Want to Miss!”
By Gail Hamm, Program Director
“……and wonder if I will be one of the survivors….”
Recently a Cancer Services’ client made the following comment on the evaluation she returned to us: “… (I) wonder if I will be one of the survivors…”
This is a concern of most people who hear, “You have cancer.” You do not know in that moment of stillness, what to expect next. It takes your breath away. Life stands still. In a split second, you remember all the dire stories you have ever heard, and forget the successes.
But the truth is, that everyone’s experience, while similar to others’, is really unique for that individual. You may or may not have the usual side effects. For some, the treatment and after effects are not significant to them. For others, the experience is so momentous that life is measured as “before cancer” and “after cancer.”
At Cancer Services, we use the term “cancer survivor” to mean anyone affected by cancer, from the moment of diagnosis forward. And it includes caregivers, as well. The term “cancer survivor” was first used by Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, who was diagnosed in 1975 with mediastinal seminoma. In 1985, he wrote an essay for the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Seasons of Survival.” In that article, he wrote of the uncertainty of the life of a person diagnosed with cancer. He coined the term “cancer survivor” as an all-encompassing term identifying all people affected by cancer in any stage of survival. In a later interview on public radio, he said he wished that there were a better or more descriptive term to use. Even he recognized that people with cancer live in a sort of limbo, not knowing if they will survive the experience.
If there is a day when you need the reassurance that indeed you are a survivor who is surviving, just call your Cancer Services’ Client Advocate. He or she is here to listen to you, to encourage you, to help you find the answers you need in order to better cope with your unique situation.
Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is the first place to call after a diagnosis of cancer : (260) 484-9560 or toll free (866) 484-9560. ….Serving people with cancer and their families since 1944.
Bring your family and join other cancer survivors at Lapper and Survivors Day at Foster Park, May 21. Lapper starts at9 am and the party for Survivors Day starts at 11 am. Fun, food, and festivities!
by Gail Hamm, program director
Holidays are notorious for too much food, too many relatives, and too little sleep for the cook. There’s too little time to clean the house, thaw the bird, and manage travel. Let’s be serious. Holidays can be very hectic and rarely are relaxing. But it’s important to your health to step back from all the hassle and refocus on yourself. This is especially true if you, or a loved one, are going through cancer treatment. It’s ok to give yourself permission to simplify. This may mean letting someone else host the affair this year. It may mean changing the menu from roasting a bird to ordering pizza. Perhaps it’s time to reduce the size of the guest list. Maybe you’ll decide to stay in your jammies and let the holiday slide on by, just this once. Whatever you do, you do not have to explain yourself. You do not have to feel like a failure. You do not have to feel guilty. You can say, “I am taking care of myself.” Who knows, you just might find a new way to celebrate!
by Gail Hamm, program director
Support Groups are great places to share information and support your fellow cancer sojourners. One night, Tom shared with the group that we could choose to be the pigeon or the statue. He wasn’t talking about the merits of flying versus being rock solid. He was talking about our choice to be either the victor or the victim.
There are certainly lots of times during cancer and the treatments when we may feel put upon. But the only way to survive is to fly like a pigeon. To be alive. To make choices. To not become the statue that all the pigeons roost upon.
Which is it for you? Will you be the pigeon or the statue?
by Gail Hamm, Program Director
The caregiver is the unsung hero in the medical journey. Caregivers provide hands-on care and encouragement. They may provide care as an act of love, from a sense of duty, or out of feelings of guilt. Whether caring for a loved one at home or in a nursing facility, the truth is that nothing is the same as it was before the illness.
Schedules revolve around the needs of the patient. Hard choices abound: Is my loved one safe alone while I am at work? While I run to the store? While I head to the mailbox? There are frustrations over added laundry, money worries, lack of help. Many find it extremely difficult to ask for help and therefore create even more challenges for themselves.
As the caregiver becomes more fatigued and frustrated, feelings of resentment may arise. Previous relationship problems only complicate matters. Will I care for this person who has caused me so much pain in the past? Am I not justified in walking away? Guilt feelings abound, sometimes paralyzing the caregiver into inaction.
Additional problems arise when the patient’s needs are greater than the caregiver’s ability to provide that care. If the caregiving lasts so long that there appears to be no end to the journey, the caregiver may become overwhelmed and feel ready to give up.
Conversely, caregiving can be a most rewarding experience. It is an act of love that can draw people closer together and deepen love and understanding.
No one has to “go it alone.” There is help available if both the patient and caregiver are willing to be open to other options. Call a Cancer Services advocate for assistance. Nothing is the same as it was before the illness, but it can be good.