Real Life Stories

The Light within the Darkness: Hospice

Friday, February 26th, 2010

It's quiet… No one is talking, or even thinking about the inevitable. A blackness of silence permeates the room, the family, the individual. Stillness, only shattered by one's thoughts, is waiting to be heard.

It is the news that someone in your family has been diagnosed with cancer, the BIG C we call it; and now the fear factor is working in overdrive. It's quiet, because no one knows what to say or even do at this point. Panic sets in. There are doctor's appointments to make, medicines to buy, tests to take, and a thousand things clouding one's mind. All of these things happening, yet blanketed by the fear, the choked back tears, the "Why Me?" questions, in a process of denial that has started to worm its way into your head. Yet there is light ahead, in the form of hope.

It is called Hospice care. If recognized early enough, a condition that is life-threatening, like cancer, can be referred to hospice, which can prolong life, decrease pain and suffering for not only the patient, but for their family too. Hospice involves a team approach to care and caring. Many people from different backgrounds make up this team, all with varying skill sets, and from different professions: the medical director, nurses, home health aids, chaplain, and social workers, all of whom who care for the patient, as this team approach engulfs the patient and their immediate family.

I was called upon by the Chinese government to go to China in 2008 to teach hospice to medical professionals, nurses and dental personnel within a hospital setting. There is no hospice in China, amidst its burgeoning older population. There is no such thing as palliative care, either. Teaching people in the medical field is supposed to be like "singing to the choir;" but in a country that has a different culture, different ideals and philosophy about life and death, it is like "pulling teeth" from a chicken. Two million people die from smoking habits each year in China. The only light they see is the smoldering embers of their ashes as they drift off in peace from lung cancer. We can be grateful that there is the option of hospice care in our country, and hope that it serves as an example for others to follow.


  1. Peggy Says:
    May 14th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I heard about your book, google brought me here. I was dx with Central Sleep Apnea as well as three other rare diseases and wasn’t given more than six months to live. My experience has been nothing short of abandonment by todays society. Technically I’ve lost the live I once had, but more so the most precious thing lost to me is “consideration” I’m simply not considered a viable option that anyone need consider what I might think, want, do, you can fill in the verb. I’ve become isolated not because I don’t like people, I love people. But I’ve become the pink elephant that sits in the middle of the room. Everyone sees it, but no one will admit it is there. They are just hoping it will go away. And soon.After I passed my “expiration date, then it was deemed that I no longer needed to “receive anyone’s consideration on how I was supposed to live, wasnt’ I grateful for being alive? ” I find myself making decisions based upon how it will reflect upon my memory and I fnd that terribly sad.I feel like the relative that has worn out their welcome when they come to visit. I haven’t attended a family gathering in years just to avoid the stares and whishpers. I haven’t figured out how to straddle that line of dying while I’m still trying to live. I was expected to die in 2005, so it has been a long process, not that I’m complaining, but then I guess this does sound like that. I find it amazing that people today don’t see how it reflects upon them when they treat an ill person poorly, but then again , they don’t worry, I’m just one person, and a sick one at that, so why bother? Once you don’t have a paying job, the government and society considers you to be a blight upon their good efforts. I too wanted to be one of those glowing inspiring people, but the world just wouldn’t let me die a good death without showing me its true colors. Peggy

  2. Peggy Says:
    May 14th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Oh, I fogot to mention. No one has mentioned. Not one single person. The fact that I am still alive and how that is a good thing.

A New Wrinkle Gets A New Look…

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Exciting news! Today we had a photo session for my soon to be released book, A New Wrinkle: What I Learned From Older People Who Never Acted Their Age. I’m so pleased that long-time coastside residents Jackie and Ron Thomas of Montara, CA agreed to be photographed for the cover of my new book.jr1

Spring Mountain Gallery photographers of Half Moon Bay, Michael and Deb Wong made the shoot easy and fun. Here’s a sample from today’s shoot.

A New Wrinkle shares real stories that I’ve experience about transitions and reinventing oneself. What I’ve learned is that as we age and experience significant changes, we need to reinvent ourselves in order to stay active, healthy, and to lead a productive life. - Dr. Eric Shapira