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 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, medicine’s 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 a patient but for their family too. Hospice involves a team approach to care and caring. Many people from different back- grounds make up this team; all with varying skill sets and from different professions: The medical director, the 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 a 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.