The poor old lady had been through a lot in recent years. Cancer had treated her harshly, and had spread through major organ systems, her liver, lung, and most of the bones in her body. A cruel disease that robbed her of her independence, and dignity. The years that she had the cancer had been relentless, multiple lines of treatment including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy. Despite all of them the cancer continued to progress, to cause havoc, and to ravage her body, and eventually her mind.
The past month had been the worst time of all. Her final decline started with a fall, it was not clear why she fell but she ended up fracturing her wrist. A painful injury that caused her to cry in agony. Her lower arm was placed in a cast for comfort and to give it the best chance to heal. Three days later she fell again, with her other hand outstretched, causing another wrist fracture. Two forearms were now encased by fibre-glass casts. This rendered her unable to wipe her bottom or wash herself. Increasingly dependent she had trouble feeding herself, the casts were of the light weight sort, but when your illness has stolen away precious muscle, the additional weight made brushing her teeth impossible.
We’d been trying to admit her for weeks, but she had not been keen. We had her on the admission list for a whole week but she said that she had to sort out something for her children and couldn’t come in. I thought that it might be an excuse, as a lot of people are still scared of hospice. Most people have not had anything to do with hospice but they may have some pre-conceived idea of what hospice might be. Often this is inaccurate, and can generate a lot of fear.
It took some convincing by the hospital palliative care team before she would finally agree to coming in to hospice. She was still nervous but her favourite cousin had promised that she would go in with her. They had grown up together and they were best friends, but this had been taken to a completely different level once the cancer diagnosis had been made five months ago. Something was wrong as she had lost a lot of weight, without trying to. Life had been busy for many years with her five children, and her partner could not always be counted upon. It was her cousin who had attended all the Oncology appointments with her. Her cousin had been there for all the chemotherapy sessions. Having her cousin accompany her to hospice was comforting and if there was anything scary, she would be there for her.