One Patient’s Experience with Palliative Care
A few years ago, as a primary care provider, I was caring for a patient named “Samantha*” who was 55 years old and was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember meeting with her and her husband about this new diagnosis and trying to answer as many of their questions as I could.
Will I be in pain? What other symptoms will I have? What will chemo be like and will it work? How soon will I lose my hair? What is my prognosis? What if chemo doesn’t work? How am I going to tell my kids, other family and friends, and my co-workers?
As I answered their every question to the best of my ability, I realized this was not going to be enough for Samantha and her husband. The two of them would need someone who could spend more time to continue answering these kinds of questions as things evolved with her disease and with the treatment.
While the oncologist would focus on the treatment and determine prognosis based on the treatment’s effectiveness, I knew Samantha would need someone to also help manage the symptoms related to her cancer and the treatment. Samantha would need someone who could, despite this serious illness, focus on helping her have a good quality of life.
Enter Palliative Care.
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people like Samantha who are living with a serious illness. According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC): “This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and family.” Furthermore, palliative care works together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. And most importantly, palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment like chemotherapy.
I referred Samantha to palliative care at the same time I referred her to oncology. While I got regular updates from her oncologist and palliative care specialist, it would be a few months before I saw Samantha back at my clinic. When I saw her, she shared with me that the chemo was going as well as it could. Her palliative care specialist had been able to manage her nausea, pain, and fatigue with different remedies including prescription medications. Even though she lost all her hair, she was rocking her wig and trying out being a brunette! She was able to continue working part-time and more importantly, she was able to continue spending quality time with her husband and kids.
While Samantha shared with me that she was hoping for the best with the chemo and her cancer, she also realized that this was a good reminder to get her things in order including completing an advance directive and talking with her husband and kids about her wishes. She said she was not looking forward to those tough conversations, but her palliative care specialist was able to have those talks with her and her family.
To her surprise, her palliative care specialist met her at her own home each time, so she didn’t have to travel to another medical appointment. She shared with me how appreciative she was that I referred her to palliative care. Samantha said that palliative care had made this whole process a lot less scary and less stressful, helped her continue living a good life, and made sure all her other doctors including me were on the same page with what was important to her.
At Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, one of the services we provide is palliative care. If you or your family member are living with a serious illness like Samantha, please reach out to your clinician or directly to us and ask for palliative care. It is never too late, and it is often never too early to see palliative care.
Vice President of Nurse Practitioner Education
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care
To learn more about our palliative care program, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
*Names and some other identifying details have been altered to protect patient privacy
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