When my doctor gave me my terminal diagnosis, I felt like I was in someone else’s body, like this was happening to the person in the next room. I felt numb. I heard the words coming from his mouth, but I couldn’t make them apply to me. I remember whispering, “How much time?” I felt that if I tried to say anything more, nothing but tears would come out.
He gave me a harrowing, sympathetic look. “Usually this diagnosis carries a life expectancy of 8 months to a year. Maybe less, possibly more.”
My head, heart, and stomach simultaneously dropped to the floor. That was it? So many plans, so much I hadn’t done, so much I had put off, would all have to be done in less than a year? I wouldn’t watch my children get married; I wouldn’t be around long enough to meet my grandchildren; I wouldn’t be here for our 30th wedding anniversary.
I felt so many emotions flooding through my body. I wanted to cry at the tragedy of time. I wanted to scream into the sky. I wanted to laugh at the audacity I had to think that death would wait for me.
I don’t remember leaving the doctor’s office that day. I know that my husband was with me. I felt his hand on my hand the entire time, acting as a sort of grounding mechanism to my wandering mind. As we pulled into the driveway of the home we had shared together for 25 years, he touched my face. “What do you want to do now?”
I knew that treatment, no matter how aggressive or effective, wouldn’t help at this point. The doctor had made that pretty clear. I took a deep breath, took a minute to think of my answer, and said, “I want to make the most of it.”
—While this story is fictional, the circumstances outlined can happen to anybody. A terminal diagnosis can come out of nowhere. It is usually unexpected, surprising, and world-stopping. Everything stands still while the details are ironed out – how much time do I have left? What sort of treatment options will work for me? Is there hope for me?—
After multiple discussions with my doctor and my family, I decided against treatment for my disease. The treatment sessions, I had heard, were intensive and draining. If I only had less than a year, I wasn’t going to spend that time sick from curative measures. I wanted to live the rest of my life to the fullest.
I decided to look into hospice care. I wasn’t sure that I would get anything out of it; I wasn’t on the brink of death, and everyone I knew who had been on hospice had been in much worse shape than I was in. When I started my research into it, I was surprised to find that I could receive home hospice care. I got a social worker, a nurse, a doctor, a volunteer, and a chaplain assigned to me. It felt amazing to know that not only did I have the support I needed, but my family would have the support they needed, too.
—When a person enters hospice care, it can seem like a scary finality, especially if the person is not familiar with everything hospice offers. Shepherd’s Cove Hospice strives to cultivate a relationship with each member of our community. We want you to know what is available to you before you need us. This is a core part of our mission: to provide our community with the best end-of-life care available, whenever they might need it. We want to be the guiding hand, helping you navigate through your uncharted territory, because we’ve been there countless times.—
My family and I decided to pursue home hospice care. I knew I wanted to spend as much time as possible at home with the people I loved. It was incredible how the hospice staff adjusted around my schedule and helped me whenever I needed them. When my pain became unbearable, all it took was one phone call and they were there to help me. I was overwhelmed by the love, knowledge, compassion, and expertise that Shepherd’s Cove gave to me. They cared about every aspect of my life, helping me accomplish the things that were most important to me. They made sure that my affairs were in order; they ensured that my family had the support they would need after I passed; they made sure that every detail of my last days was left to my will.
I knew there were certain things I would never be able to do. I’d never hike through the Grand Canyon; I’d never go skydiving; I’d never do a lot of things that involved being physical. What I found was that the list of things that I could do was much longer than what I couldn’t. I focused on the amazing milestones I could hit and the memories I could make in such a short time. I spent a week in a cabin in the mountains with my husband and children; I rode a horse through fields and trails; I treated my husband to a date night out, complete with a fancy dinner and late-night movies. Each moment of my life spent on hospice care was filled with good memories, good times, and good people. I couldn’t have been more surprised, and furthermore, more thankful.
—Hospice care at Shepherd’s Cove is about so much more than death. It is about helping you through one of the most difficult times in your life, experiencing the most important things, spending time with the ones you love, managing the pain you may experience so that you can focus on other things, exchanging compassion and love with the caregivers who help you, and filling every single second of your life with memories for your loved ones to cherish forever. These are the most important days, the days that feel as if they are fleeting, because this is when you realize what you truly want out of life. —
Hospice helped me in countless ways. They took care of the physical pain I had, since I first found out about my diagnosis. They helped me work through the fears and anxiety I had about death, pain, and what would happen to my family when I was gone. They helped me accept that I was in the hands of a higher power, that my life was truly just beginning. They took my hand and led me through each obstacle that I came across. In a time that could have been full of fear and sadness, hospice helped to turn it into a time of happiness and memories. Hospice is to thank for my family’s laughter that still gives me comfort to this day. Hospice was able to give me a good life, and through that, a good death. I could never begin to repay that.