Whether you have personally known someone with cancer or heard about someone outside your circle with the disease, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “fighting cancer” before. The language we use when we talk about diseases like cancer reflects our cultural attitude toward these serious conditions.
Why do we need to talk about cancer in terms of battles – as though there could be winners and losers?
Moreover, is cancer a win or lose battle? Can we find better ways to relate to terminal diagnoses and better language to use when talking about our loved ones’ conditions?
Read on to explore our attitudes about cancer and learn how hospice care can help terminally ill people, as well as their friends and family, find peace and come to terms with their diagnosis in a healthy way.
Changing Our Assumptions about Terminal Illness
The first misconception we must face is the idea of cancer and other terminal disease as battlegrounds. Battles are exhausting and destructive. What an image that language can conjure when the battleground is your or your loved one’s body!
Changing our language and mentality can also have a tremendous net positive impact on terminally ill people. Imagine a day when we no longer talk about “fighting cancer” but instead consider quality of life over quantity.
For the cancer patient, the battle against the disease is tiring on both an emotional and physical level. The chemotherapy, blood tests, scans, and assorted treatments can take a toll, as well as the constant pressure to project positivity and confidence.
We applaud the patient who says they won’t stop fighting and aren’t giving up, but what does that really mean for them, their family, and their quality of life?
“If the language we use reflects our cultural attitudes, then our perspective on illness and death, and the metaphors we use to discuss them, must evolve together. Maybe cancer and heart disease and organ failure aren’t battles to win or lose, but simply illnesses that we strive to treat. Maybe a patient living with cancer isn’t a warrior, but simply a human being struggling to live well and survive while contending with her mortality. Our bodies and lives are infinitely more than battlegrounds.”Dr. Sunita Puri, Excerpt from “The good that can come when we stop seeing cancer as a battle to win or lose”
When to Consider Hospice Care
Taking that first step toward embracing palliative care is difficult, but crucial. The following are a few signs you might be ready to consider hospice care for your terminally ill family member.
Difficulty with Daily Activities
If you or a loved one is experiencing difficulty with daily necessary activities, like getting out of bed, bathing oneself, getting dressed, eating, or moving unaided, it might be time to consider hospice care.
Cancer and its associated treatments can tire patients, but if you or your loved one can’t perform daily functions without assistance, the disease may be taxing the limits of the body and compromising quality of life.
Extreme Weight Loss and Fatigue
Are you or your loved one experiencing extreme weigh loss in a short period of time? Some weight loss with cancer treatment is expected, but sudden and noticeable weight loss can signify a more serious health concern.
Similarly, if you or your loved one is short of breath and fatigued even when lying down and resting, this might indicate the disease is taking a toll on the body’s resources.
Increased Frequency of Doctor Visits
If you or your loved one is making more frequent trips to the emergency room or spending more time at the doctor’s office, you might be ready to consider hospice care, particularly if your oncologist or other primary physician has discussed the option of palliative care.
In any case, you and your family will need to consult with your doctor before making the decision to seek a hospice care provider.
Is Hospice Care the Answer?
Confronting our mortality is daunting and scary. You and your family don’t have to do it alone. Hospice care professionals can help you manage the symptoms of terminal cancer and make sure your loved one is comfortable, ensuring quality of life until the end.
Hospice for terminally ill patients can include:
- Clinical Support: Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals will provide pain relief and symptom management for the patient.
- Emotional and Spiritual Support: Beyond providing care and counsel for the patient, hospice provides emotional and spiritual care for friends and family, too.
- Social and Community Support: Social workers and volunteers can help family members manage resources and shoulder difficult tasks.
Kindful Hospice is dedicated to providing this type of comprehensive care for families and individuals dealing with terminal illnesses like cancer. Contact us to learn more about how we can provide information, companionship, and counsel for you and your family.