Winner of the 2013 de Souza Cancer Care Story Contest
Privilege, an Honour and a Pleasure:
Providing palliative care to cancer patients and their families
I am an RPN and I have worked on a Palliative Care unit After several weeks with us, with the help of a PCA
in a General Hospital for over 12 years. I wish to share my pain pump and medications such as ativan, haldol and
story with you in regards to a special patient named Mary gabapenten this gentle lady finally benefitted from much
and her family as they travelled on their private cancer needed pain relief.
journey battling and coming to terms with a terminal and
As you can imagine, throughout this lady’s illness trajectory
the pain experience for her was all encompassing and
The narrative that I wish to relate seems like it took place exhausting especially when she needed to be turned. To
only yesterday but in reality was six years ago. Mary was reduce the discomfort, anxiety and psychological turmoil
a 76 year old female with a diagnosis of breast cancer. she was gently turned and repositioned via the log roll
She had been dealing with this health reality and the method.
prescribed treatment regime for many months. Mary was
a very petite person with a beautiful smile, personality and Caring for this individual was always a “Privilege, an
a Scottish accent. She was a retired office worker and a Honour and a Pleasure”. Supporting her sons was an
divorced mother of two grown sons. Her boys thought the absolute must so that they would be able to be there for
sun shone and set on their mom and the feelings were their mom. Mary seemed so fragile and frail that providing
mutual from the other side of the coin.
her with the most comfort with the least distress was the
ultimate goal and a “no brainer”.
In the following expose, I will incorporate your guiding
principles to recount a story that is not only genuine For whatever the reasons, this lady and I shared a
and true but is also full of amazing courage and grace, special bond and relationship connection. The love,
tranquility and peace. I am sure you already know that understanding and most of all the trust that developed
these are the extraordinary people that leave you with a between the two of us was instantaneous, intuitional
memory that is so startlingly vivid and transforming that and natural. There are no words that would adequately
your own personal life is changed in some way forever begin to describe what we both felt. “It just was.” Who
and the experience is never, ever forgotten.
knows may be it was fate stepping in and lending her
The value of being a palliative care/oncology nurse
is without a doubt the patients and their families. They In the last month of this lady’s il ness, although her pain was
are the real heroes. They are the natural teachers and under much bet er control, her health status was steadily
mentors and all they ask in return is that you listen, learn declining and deteriorating. Her constant companions of
and carry on their legacy to help someone else.
anxiety, discomfort and confusion prevented her from at aining
any physical, emotional or psychological peace or solace.
The reason for Mary’s admission to our unit was
excruciating pain due to a spinal cord compression which Her eventual release from the heavy burden of this life
left her lower back and limbs paralyzed. Mary’s stay with time occurred one evening shift about 10:30 p.m. I went
us was almost six months. The biggest challenge that in the room to check on the status of this very ill patient.
we faced was trying to bring her pain under control and Amazingly, she was at peace and the most comfortable
believe me when I reiterate that this was one monumental that I had ever seen her. I stayed and spent the time
task for everyone on the health care team each and every talking to her son. The conversation was centered around
his mom and all the events and activities that had made
his life and his brother’s so special and memorable.
As he talked and praised his mom for being such a strong I also told them this in parting: Just as you will grieve
woman and loving mother, we both noticed simultaneously at the loss of your mom and loved one, as a nurse and
the final changes of her last few minutes on this earth.
health care provider I will also mourn because I too, have
lost a very unique and fragile connection with your mom
Both the son and I acknowledged this new reality with and with you.
a knowing glance as he continued to speak softly and
lovingly until her very last breath. The changes were Remember, when you leave you will take a little piece
subtle but oh, so gradual and graceful. It was as if her of me with you. That tiny little piece is the hole left in my
son was singing her a lullaby that was leading his mom aching heart. That little piece of my heart I freely and
straight to the gates of heaven. She was at such peace without reservation give because you have given me
and the radiance upon her face in that moment in time more than I can ever repay. It is called “experience”.
spoke volumes. I was in awe and very humbled to have
been a part of such a private, beautiful and breathtaking Experience is what allows me to continue to grow and
learn both as a professional and a person. It is that
ethereal intuitional quality I confidently use to help others
It was with a sense of relief that Mary was finally released on their own personal journeys.
from her suffering into the arms of a loving, welcoming
angel. For us, although sad and surreal this lady had truly In conclusion, palliative care/oncology is a very special
returned home and was flying with the angels. At last, she and unique area. The rewards are incalculable and the
had earned her wings and received much needed rest experience priceless. Excellence requires a willing heart,
mind and soul and experience is knowing life is precious
and must be shared with one another in order to become
How does any human being adequately and fittingly give and remain whole.
the respect due to a special individual that in their own
unique way unknowingly and unselfishly gave and taught The most meaningful aspect and greatest satisfaction of my
you the simple lessons of courage, kindness and infinite practice is communication. I am only a facilitator using the
tools and skil s of my profession to provide optimal comfort
and relief from discomfort, worries and burdens to patients
This wonderful person taught me that the most valuable and families. The biggest dif erence is literal y stopping to
gift you can give to another is yourself. You will never, ever take the time to listen, talk and to show by your actions
know the extent of the gift of being genuine and human. It your wil ingness to care for another human being. Their
has the ability to grow in ways that are unimaginable and wel being significantly improves when access to their loved
unfathomable and which ultimately warms the heart long one’s caregiver is visible and only a cal or question away.
It may be a little thing but it is “a must” do item to achieving
the highest level of patient and family satisfaction.
My colleagues urged me to go home as by now I had
completed my shift. “I said no and told them that I had one It is just like that old saying, “but for the grace of God go
I”. It could be me reaching out for a friend or a friendly
face in a time of need. “Being human is not always as
Before I left, I performed the one last gift I could give to easy as one might think but always worth the effort”.
Mary. I wrapped her body lovingly in preparation for her
final earthly journey when her family would take the time
and opportunity to say their goodbyes. It was my way
of saying goodbye, thank you and I will miss you to a
courageous friend. I could do no less.
On that most eventful winter’s evening, before I left work,
I stopped by Mary’s room to extend my condolences once
again and to offer a final goodbye to both sons who were
sitting quietly at their mom’s bedside.
Psychosocial Treatments for MajorDepression and Dysthymia inOlder Adults: A Review ofthe Research LiteratureOlder adults represent a growing segment of the population with the highest suicide rate and an increasing needof counseling services for major depression and dysthymia. The present study examined the literature with thepurpose of identifying research addressing psychosocial treatments of d
A Review of the Medical Benefits and Contraindications to Breastfeeding in the United States Cite as Lawrence RA. 1997. A Review of the Medical Benefits and Contraindications to Breastfeeding in theUnited States (Maternal and Child Health Technical Information Bulletin). Arlington, VA:National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health. A Review of the Medical Benefi