Monthly Archives: January 2019

Am I “Living with” or “Dying of” an Illness

During a recent Speakers Bureau out in the community, I met someone who was on hospice care. After the talk, she came up to me and said, “At first, I thought I was ‘dying of” an illness. Then after hospice came into my life, I felt like I was ‘living with’ an illness. Hospice is teaching me how to live.”

Living with an illness Her comment was so eloquent and profound, and something I often hear from patients and families who have experienced hospice care.

In fact, this notion of living with an illnes, has been the topic of much discussion after news reports of a landmark New England Journal of Medicine study showed that cancer patients who were on hospice and palliative care lived longer than those who were not.

Dr. Charles von Gunten describes the results of the New England Journal of Medicine study in more detail below:

“The patients involved in this study who received palliative care from the moment of their cancer diagnosis along with standard cancer treatment lived twice as long as patients receiving cancer treatment alone. And they were spared much of the physical and emotional suffering that is far too common among people with life-limiting illnesses.”

“This study demonstrates that [hospice and] palliative care should not be considered a last resort, or giving up,” noted Dr. von Gunten. “It should be offered as early as possible as part of standard treatment.”

We all know the subject of hospice can be a difficult to discuss, as the myths surrounding hospice care include that it is “brink of death” care – or “giving up hope”. Because of this misconception, patients and their loved ones choose not to receive hospice care or wait to enroll in hospice care until it is too late. As a result they do not receive the full benefits of what hospice services can provide. So how can we help create that paradigm shift in thinking that hospice and palliative care really is about “living well” with a terminal illness?

It’s important for patients, caregivers, or anyone affected by a life-limiting illness to learn more about the health care resources that are available. Talk with your doctor, or call hospice and palliative care providers in the community to learn about the benefits this specialized care.