Upon removal of a tumor on her pancreas and completion of six months of chemotherapy, everything seemed to be fine for Diane Haderly. She felt great. After all, the Lexington Park resident beat breast cancer 17 years ago. This time around she wasn’t as fortunate.
A follow-up scan showed the cancer had spread. Diane discussed her options with John, her husband of 38 years. She could undergo an even more intense treatment or do nothing. The treatment could extend her life a few months, but Diane decided it wasn’t worth it.
“It came down to quality of life,” said John, recalling the toll the six months of chemo took on Diane. “She always said if she ever got really sick, she wanted to die at Hospice House.” So the couple went to Hospice House, learned about hospice services and chose her options for care. Being terminal, Diane was eligible for hospice care immediately, although she felt great. In fact, in the beginning, John said Diane would answer the door and the hospice nurse would ask to see the patient while Diane answered, “I am the patient.”
Diane and John sailed and traveled in their motorhome during their time together. They visited their blended family of five children and eight grandchildren, discussing Diane’s decision and what she wanted in addition to celebrating family occasions. Thanks to their hospice connection, John, a retired Navy officer with no medical training, always felt confident should they ever encounter an emergency while traveling. “Whenever we left home,” said John, “I let hospice know our routes and our destinations. They set up hospice services for us in those areas, although we never had to use them.”
According to Hospice and Palliative Care Interim Director Kathy Franzen, BSN, RN, a great number of patients and their families never discuss end-of-life options. Instead, decisions are crisis based, made under duress in the Intensive Care Center or the Emergency Department. “This places a huge burden on others.” Kathy and her staff ask patients and families “What’s important to you?” to help with decisions about palliative or hospice care. “This question can help with one of the most important conversations of our life,” said Kathy.
If unsure how to begin end-of-life conversations, she highly recommends The Conversation Project website at TheConversationProject.org for several helpful resources. “All of hospice care is palliative care, but all of palliative care is not hospice care at all,” Kathy said. Palliative care should start at the beginning of any serious or chronic illness. To be eligible for hospice, a terminally ill patient with approximately six months to live must have a physician referral.
Just as she wanted, Diane Haderly was at Hospice House for her final days. All of her family, including the dog, were able to come and say their goodbyes. John was so taken with his wife’s care that when his 95-year-old mother-in-law was in a nursing home dying of lung cancer, he arranged for her to go to Hospice House.
Once again, he was grateful for their skill and compassion. As a thank you, John helps care for the baby grand piano in the Hospice House living room, seeing that it stays well-tuned for all to enjoy. Diane loved music and John, a musician, served as the Navy Band’s tour director for most of his military career. “Hospice staff treated my wife, myself and our entire family with dignity,” John said. “They honored Diane’s wishes, provided comfort and support, and made the transition tolerable for our entire family. I’m also proud of our community for building the Hospice House. It’s a gift.”
Visit HospiceofStMarys.org for more information about hospice and palliative care.