Category Archives: Cancer

What To Do After You Hear The Word Cancer!


Join us on Wednesday, February  4th at 7 pm EST on HealthCafeLive.com as we welcome noted author, professor, and public speaker, Dr.  Stan Goldberg to our show.  Author of seven books and numerous articles delivered around the world;  Dr. Goldberg has taught, provided therapy, and    researched in the areas of learning, change, loss and end of life issues for over 25 years.   When you hear the word ’Cancer’ what do you do, how do you react?  Our nature is to help, but sometimes we do not know how to ask to help.  As a Cancer survivor himself, Dr. Goldberg has a keen perspective on how to transform compassion into skillful behaviors. Listen in and learn how Dr. Stan Goldberg is creating ‘Healing Ties’ all around us!

 To listen live at 7:00 pm on Health Cafe Live.com simply click here! 

Cannot listen live?  NO Worries!!!  Healing Ties is available on demand at iHeart Radio by clicking here! 

 

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Everlasting Love: TLO Is At Rest And At Peace


Love is the beauty of the soul ~ Saint Augustine

Bernard Richard Schiffer January 24, 1931 ~ March 9, 2014

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LilyThe house is quiet; so different, so empty. The beautiful aroma of the stargazer lilies fills the house as one by one, they bloom in their mystical way. Just as the lilies transition from a small bud to a beautiful flower; TLO’s transition into eternal life was just as mystical, and just as beautiful.  Holding him in my arms as he took his last breath on Sunday, March 9th at 1:20 pm was surely a  paradoxical honor, however we would not have had it any other way.

Our Caregiving journey ended on Sunday, March 9, yet this is not the end ofSchiffer blend our love, we just get the chance to know and love each other in a different way.  Words can’t describe how I feel at this moment, but I take comfort in knowing that he is pain-free and he left this world with a beautiful smile on his face.  When I placed his head back down on the pillow after his last breath, I knew that he was in a better place;  no stress, no strife, no agony, only peace.  I’m sure my faith will grant me those same gifts in the months ahead.

We have been on this Caregiving journey for over two years now, yet it seems like yesterday when I wrote my first post on ‘The Purple Jacket.”   Writing proved to be therapeutic for both of us, however, it is strange to realize  that the only two posts that we will never get to share with each other is this post and the post from last week, Approaching The Final Destination.  I do take comfort in knowing that TLO enjoyed reading about our Caregiving journey as much as I enjoyed writing about it.

The comfort and love I have felt from family and friends over the past week has been heartfelt.  May it continue. While on this Caregiving journey, so many people have touched our lives along they way.  I am so grateful for all   your words of encouragement. Denise Brown from Caregiving.com and her vast network of Caregivers who have been our extended family during our journey, are friends for life.  Even in the midst of the intensity of daily Caregiving, Denise and our extended family have been there at a moment’s notice to extend comfort.  Word’s can’t describe how wonderful TLO’s primary care physician, Dr. Milica Starcevic of Broward Health, has been to us during our time in her care.   Dr. Starcevic’s genuine care and concern for us will always have a special place in my heart.  It goes without saying how wonderful the entire staff at Gold Coast Hospice treated us as well.  The word that comes directly to mind when thinking about the staff at Gold Coast Hospice is ‘authentic.’  There was not one staff member who walked into our room who was not authentic in their care for both of us.  Like ministry, working in Hospice is a special calling, not everyone can do it, but the staff that we met from the administrator down, was just splendid.  We never had a worry or concern, the entire Hospice staff honored us and our relationship.

For me, life does move on, just in a different way.  As much as the two of us talked about ‘this day,’ one can never prepare for an experience like this.  He is forever in my heart, sealed with that lasting smile he left for20120407-001829.jpg me when he made his transition.  One thing that TLO asked, well…demanded…is that I start to take better care of myself.  That is my immediate intention, to create some  ‘healing ties’ so that I can become  stronger mentally and to get physically fit because on Monday, March 10th I haven’t only started a new chapter in my life, I started a new Caregiving journey as well.  That new journey is to be a Caregiver for myself.   Many caregivers have this trait where we put our needs second to the needs of our Caree.  It is easy to say we are going to take better care of ourselves, but harder to do when you’re in the midst of Caregiving.  My advocacy in the days, months and years ahead will focus on the importance of Caregivers taking better care of themselves because it is important not only for the Caregiver, but important for the Caree as well.  If I can learn to be half the caregiver to myself as I was to TLO, I think I’ll be in pretty good shape.  Following this path allows me to be with him while honoring his wishes for me to take better care of myself:  It’s a ‘win/win’ don’t you think?

As I write this on ‘The Purple Jacket”, I do not have any fancy words to share or meaningful slogans to portray, I just want to tell you about a story of love.  Two people connecting from different sides of the religious aisle, making a go at life, while forming a meaningful relationship that even to this day,  is difficult to describe.  TLO might have been slight in stature, but he stood tall in life.  With few regrets and quite a bit of joy, TLO lived his life his way. I have learned so much about being strong from him. He was and still is my best friend, pal and partner. My Caregiving cape wanted to fix everything inside of his body; eleven years just whisked by within one week in hospice with me asking that final day…”Lord, can’t I have just one more hour, one more minute to know him..to love him?”   As I gently laid his head back on the pillow after he made his transition, I was comforted to see a smile on his face.  I knew he was pain TLOCJMfree and I knew that he left this world in love and yes, he did beat Cancer!

In the weeks ahead, there will be a few announcements on ‘The Purple Jacket’ about special events that are in the works to celebrate the life of Bernard Richard Schiffer.  Our Caregiving journey has been documented over the past seven months with reporters from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel; filled with video and pictures of the two of us,  we look forward to sharing that article with you when published is just a few short weeks.   I will be writing again in the months ahead, but this space here on ‘The Purple Jacket’ is reserved for my best friend, pal and life partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer for without him, there would be no ‘Purple Jacket!’

But for now,  I must take a breath and get some rest.

   You seeWe Might Have Had Cancer: But Cancer NEVER had us.  The thing we have is Love and come to think about it, Love is the most important gift of all!

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More Cancer: More Radiation


 If You Are Out To Describe The Truth, Leave Elegance To The Tailor ~ Albert Einstein

The pain has been severe; the long sleepless hours have been agony, but now we know the truth behind the pain, we know the truth that is causing those sleepless days.   More Cancer: More Radiation.

When the MRI results came in on Thursday, our fears became our reality; “It’s good that we know what we are dealing with” I said to TLO; “Yes, as difficult as this news is to hear, it is better to know” TLO responded.  In the back of our minds, we both knew that this was not a case of sciatica.

The cancer has moved to his hip, pelvis and down his right leg.  In order to relieve his pain, we will start palliative radiation treatments immediately.   We are considering a PET scan to determine where else the cancer might be in his body, yet how much more do we really want to know? 

There is comfort in holding each other and having a good cry.

One thing that we have decided is that we are going to enjoy every day FightCancertogether.  We will not let the cancer rule us because as Saint Augustine said,  “Love Is The Beauty Of The Soul.”  

It is at these times when the dual role of Caregiver and Partner intertwine.  The  fate of reality projects our thoughts to a future which has not arrived.  You want the pain to go away; nothing more, nothing less.   Removing the Caregiving role provides for more free time yet losing a partner leaves an emptiness that only makes free time more difficult.

As  Caregivers, we often fail to reach out and ask for help.  Those reasons imagesvary from wanting to do it alone, to not knowing how to ask for help.  With that, family and friends have to have their own comfort zone when asking what they can do to help.  I have been on both sides of this dilemma.   The most important part of this process is to be aware and act within one’s comfort zone.

If you are wondering what you might be able to do, please feel free to: support

  • Call us
  • Write us
  • Text us
  • Visit us
  • Pray for us
  • Do what makes YOU most comfortable

TLO and I understand that we have a difficult road ahead, but that  is OK because we know the truth and we can deal with it accordingly.  The quick response from his primary care physician and radiation oncologist to have his treatment plan set up within 24 hours has simply amazed us.  We are so fortunate to have Dr. Starcevic and Dr. Medina on our Care Team.

It goes without saying how fortunate we are to have each and everyone one of you with us on this journey because…

We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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The Caregiving YoYo


You Can Never Plan The Future By The Past ~ Edmund Burke

YoYoHow many of you liked to play with a Yo Yo when you were a kid?  I would guess that just about everyone has taken their turn, spinning their Yo Yo up and down, controlling the string, holding steady, flipping the device backwards to impress.  As I have thought about how our Caregiving journey has begun in 2014, I see a resemblance to that of a Yo Yo:  Up and down, backwards and forwards, spinning all around.  Unlike a Yo Yo, Caregivers have little, if any control over their Caree’s, health which makes for so much uncertainty when you try to plan ahead.

 TLO finished 2013 with a bout of congestive heart failure that kept us from traveling to Florida‘s west coast to visit his family.  I could tell leading up to the day we were supposed to leave for Tampa that something different was brewing with his health which necessitated an unplanned trip to his PCP.  With a few days of additional diuretics, and a new 6 day steroid pack, TLO was feeling great as we moved into 2014.

Mindful that we have now had two trips derailed by unexpected health calamities late in 2013, we set our sights on going on a week-long cruise starting on Saturday, January 11th.  Our travel plans for January 11th ended up being derailed again by another unexpected health calamity. Unable to get out of bed the day before the cruise, and the following two days after the cruise sailed, necessitated an emergency call to his PCP, then followed by another unplanned visit to the doctor’s office.  The consensus was that it was unsafe for him to go on the cruise; disappointment does not accurately describe how we both felt when I had to make the call to cancel the cruise. (Yes, I did purchase the insurance!)

 With an uncontrollable nose bleed, only exceeded by excruciating back and leg pain  necessitated TLO to stay in bed for 3 days; there was sheer puzzlement about what was going on with his body.  The pain he was experiencing was different, the nose bleed was troubling, and the concern was mounting.  His current pain medications were not providing any relief, “What’s going on here” we both thought!  The relief started to slowly take place on Tuesday after an injection administered by his PCP and a new round of steroids which started the following day.  However, during the visit with the PCP, the concern is that the Cancer has spread to the bones in his hip and leg; we’ll know more after TLO completes another MRI.  As the week progressed, TLO admitted that he had been fearful of dying because of the intensity of his pain and discomfort.

Thankfully, just a few days after the injection and a new round of steroids in his system, we were able to get TLO out of the house for a trial run.  As the week progressed, the nose bleed disappeared and his pain is at a manageable level.  “I wish I would have felt like this on the day we were supposed to leave for the cruise,” TLO said just last night.  ‘I would have wished that, too’ I concurred.

While it may seem easy for some of us to control a Yo Yo by keeping it steady and close to the ground; Caregivers are always rewinding, trying to avoid that uncontrollable spin, looking for that gentle ‘touch’ that will keep our paths steady.   That is why I like what Edmond Burke had to say…“You can never plan the future by the past.”  If we were to look solely on what was in the past, we would lose hope.  Hope is one of those intangible items that makes those difficult Caregiving days plausible. Without hope, there is no planning, no future, no means of survival.  Hope brings anticipation, hope brings comfort, hope brings the excitement… Hope is what keeps us going!

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TLO Friday, Jan 17

We all know our health is unpredictable.  Sure, there are plenty people like ‘TLO’ who have similar  health concerns in front of them, but to take away one’s hope is like removing medicine.  Without hope, there is no future; without a plan, there is no hope!  Yes, we are going to plan another trip soon and when the day arrives for us to leave, we hope that we will be well enough to go.   While I’m mindful of the past, I can’t worry about it  because by worrying about the past, takes away the hope that we create. Once we lose our hope, we have let the cancer beat us.  Because, you see, we might have cancer, but cancer does not have us! 

 

 

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It’s Never Too Late To Start Over


We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated!~Maya Angelou

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I graduated from radiation treatments!

Our second bout of Cancer started to unfold when we were discharged from Imperial Point Medical Center in early October with the news that TLO’s cancer had entered his spine.   It was a somber drive home that warm Saturday afternoon knowing that three tumors were lurking on his spine;  the added ordeal of facing more radiation just exasperated the diagnosis. Those first few days home after the diagnosis  was quite difficult… For both of us.  I’m still not sure what was worse; the revelation of what was inside of him, or the anticipation of starting the rigorous treatments that were in front of us?

Caregivers know that through all the turmoil, we hope for a ray of light toHoldTight shine through our Caregiving day, to take the edge off so to speak.  Our ray of light happened this week as TLO completed his six weeks of radiation treatments.   Those six weeks were like riding a roller coaster, or maybe one of those amusement rides that spin you upside-down.  (I always hated the ones that went upside-down)  It is hard to get a handle on your day when your day is in constant motion.

Never too LateDuring these last six weeks, there has never been two days alike; Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned! We wake up each day not knowing how the day will enfold; Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned! We look back at these past six weeks and wonder, “how did we get through this mess;” Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned! We really don’t know what lies ahead of us; Cancer kind of does that, We’ve learned!  It’s never too late to start your day over;  Cancer kind of does that, we’ve learned!

Completing radiation treatments is  significant because it allows us to start Certificate side (2)over again.  There are no more treatments, nothing else to do other than to let the healing process start!     Sure, there will be a follow-up  MRI and CT scan to see the results of the radiation.  However, we have no control over what those results will entail.  We can only control how we feel, and how we will deal with those results.  

There is no doubt that this round  radiation has taken its toll on TLO.  For him, dealing with going to radiation on a daily basis is more difficult than dealing with the fact that he has cancer.    I find that revelation difficult to understand, but so thought-provoking!  It’s important to remember that we are wearing different shoes on this journey.

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 As we move into a different phase of our journey, we continue to hope for a gentle breeze at our back.  We’ve done what we could do to combat the tumors, we’ve made the proper adjustments to our care team and we are thankful for the great staff at the South Florida Radiation Oncology in Coconut Creek and Emerald Elite Senior Home Health Care in Wilton Manors .  I’m grateful to the Executive Director at SunServe, Mark Ketcham and my colleagues at work for their support and understanding.  Our extended family at Caregiving.com, where would we be without you?

As a Caregiver, we often think that we can go at it alone, that we don’t need any help.   While we have the ability to start our day over, it makes it easier to start our Caregiving day over when we have passengers to help  guide us through the journey.  I’m thankful for our Care Team!

You see…We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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Be A Healthy Caregiver’ is on hiatus until January 2014 while ‘TLO’ is undergoing radiation treatments.  To listen to  archived episodes of our show, simply click here! 

Christopher MacLellan is a Certified Senior Advisor, the coordinator of senior services for SunServe Social Services and the host of ‘Be A Healthy Caregiver’ on Blog Talk Radio.  ©ThePurpleJacket

 

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That’s What Caregivers Do!


Presidential Proclamation — November is National Family Caregivers Month!

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 I am proud to be one of the over 60 million Caregivers in the United States today.  Being a Caregiver can be, and often is challenging… But also so very  rewarding.  I believe that to be entrusted with the care of another human being is one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed on another person.  Those long sleepless nights, those challenging trips to the doctor and hospitals, those times when you have to intercede, educated and advocate come full circle when your Caree looks at you and  simply says…”Thank You for what you do for me.”  

I am also mindful of those family Caregivers who are never thanked, never appreciated and overworked.  If it means anything to you, from one Caregiver to another, I offer my thanks and appreciation to you because… That’s what Caregivers do! 

Caregiving is not a role that is often chosen and Caregiving is not for everyone.  Caregivers come in many different shapes, sizes, philosophies and cultures:  Caregiving and Caregivers are diverse. While our Caregiving  journeys might be different, Caregivers have this innate ability to understand each other,  to care for each other, to be there for each other, because…  That’s What Caregivers do!

Through the wonders of the internet, my Caregiving journey has been enriched by the countless number of people I have met along the way.  Each one of you have inspired me, supported me and have been there for me because… That’s what Caregivers do! 

A special ‘thank you’ to Author, Caregiving Coach, Speaker and owner at Caregiving.com Denise Brown and my extended family at  Caregiving.com  for your support. You opened up your ‘home’ to us and made us feel welcome from the start because…  That’s what Caregivers do!

We know that our current Caregiving journey is going to be filled with a few bumps and bruises along the way; Cancer has a way of doing that.  Yet we know those bumps and bruises will be a tad softer because of our extended Caregiving family we’ve met along the way because…That’s what Caregivers do!.  

TLO

Caregivers: Thank You for all you do from Bernard Richard Schiffer…’The Little One’

To all Caregivers, I share this simple smile from a very special fellow whose courage is unbounded, as a way of thanking you for all that you do, because…That’s what Caregivers do! 

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That’s What Caregivers Do!


Presidential Proclamation — November is National Family Caregivers Month!

 I am proud to be one of the over 60 million Caregivers in the United States today.  Being a Caregiver can be, and often is challenging… But also so very  rewarding.  I believe that to be entrusted with the care of another human being is one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed on another person.  Those long sleepless nights, those challenging trips to the doctor and hospitals, those times when you have to intercede, educated and advocate come full circle when your Caree looks at you and  simply says…”Thank You for what you do for me.”  

I am also mindful of those family Caregivers who are never thanked, never appreciated and overworked.  If it means anything to you, from one Caregiver to another, I offer my thanks and appreciation to you because… That’s what Caregivers do! 

Caregiving is not a role that is often chosen and Caregiving is not for everyone.  Caregivers come in many different shapes, sizes, philosophies and cultures:  Caregiving and Caregivers are diverse. While our Caregiving  journeys might be different, Caregivers have this innate ability to understand each other,  to care for each other, to be there for each other, because…  That’s What Caregivers do!

Through the wonders of the internet, my Caregiving journey has been enriched by the countless number of people I have met along the way.  Each one of you have inspired me, supported me and have been there for me because… That’s what Caregivers do! 

A special ‘thank you’ to Author, Caregiving Coach, Speaker and owner at Caregiving.com Denise Brown and my extended family at  Caregiving.com  for your support. You opened up your ‘home’ to us and made us feel welcome from the start because…  That’s what Caregivers do!

We know that our current Caregiving journey is going to be filled with a few bumps and bruises along the way; Cancer has a way of doing that.  Yet we know those bumps and bruises will be a tad softer because of our extended Caregiving family we’ve met along the way because…That’s what Caregivers do!.  

TLO

Caregivers: Thank You for all you do from Bernard Richard Schiffer…’The Little One’

To all Caregivers, I share this simple smile from a very special fellow whose courage is unbounded, as a way of thanking you for all that you do, because…That’s what Caregivers do! 

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Hello and Please, Come In!


Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement…Ronald Reagan

20131023-101238.jpgAs we walked into the office at the radiation oncologist this morning TLO proclaimed to the staff ‘ I’m here, let the games begin!’ Of course his ‘proclamation’ was greeted with a big smile by the staff as he sat down in the waiting room waiting for his time in the radiation ‘whirlybird!’  We are trying to find as much humor as possible as we can during this trying time. 

The current plan of radiation treatment is focused on the tumor which is located in the cervical part of the spine. This is the area where TLO is experiencing the most amount of pain and discomfort. Because of its location, this is the tumor that is of the greatest concern.    The last two nights at home have been difficult for him.  The pain across his back makes it difficult for him to lay down comfortably in bed, sometimes the recliner is the most comfortable spot for him.  The most important part of this process is to alleviate as much of his pain  as possible.  So, where ever he feels is the most comfortable spot for him, I’m all for it!

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Our New Curtains 

After yesterday’s treatment, we went for an ice coffee and found ourselves in a department store looking at curtains of all things.  I can’t remember the last time we were even in a department store!  TLO wanted new curtains for the dining room, ‘why not’ I said!   In between his naps yesterday, I hung the curtains which lead to a conversation this morning prior to our departure for today’s treatment.  ‘Thanks for agreeing on the curtains, don’t you think they are beautiful,’ TLO said.  ‘Of course they are because you picked them out,’ I said with a smile. ‘It’s important to have things that you want, isn’t,’ he said? ‘Of course so,’ I replied. ‘If there is anything you want, I will do my best to get it for you!’

Nothinggoesaway As we have progressed through the first few days of the radiation treatment, we know that we are just starting to scratch the surface to our emotions, our fears, and our determination.  Today’s session has taken quite a bit out of TLO as evident by how terrible he is feeling this afternoon.  We know that Cancer is an unwelcome guest in our home, but this unwelcome guest has brought with it the ability for us to draw closer, to dig deeper into the surface of our emotions and fears, while strengthening  our determination.    I guess there is something to learn from an unwelcome guest!

You see…We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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What’s On Your Refrigerator?


The Giving Of Love Is An Education In Itself…  Eleanor Roosevelt 

 I was thinking about that television commercial which constantly asks ‘What’s In Your Wallet’ and how catchy their marketing theme is.  I instantly think of Capital One when I hear that phrase…’What’s In Your Wallet’.  We keep most of our important identification and credit cards in our wallet; I think carrying important identification and credit cards in a wallet a common trait for everyone.

As we move into the second phase of palliative radiation treatments, and while engaging our new friends with Hospice Of Broward County, it occurred to me that we are going to have a number of ‘new friends’ visiting us in our home.  It is going to be important for these new friends to have quick access to our important documents which include TLO’s current meds and medication history, doctor information, health care directives, DNR, Durable Power of Attorney.  That is why I put (some of) these  important documents on our refrigerator in our File For Life folder for easy access!  We even spiced our file up with a little New Orléans!

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 While I am a big proponent of electronic media and databases, we also have to be mindful that sometimes networks and computers crash.  When you need your most important documents at a moments notice, the last thing you need is a failed hard drive or jump drive to add to the stress.  In my opinion, there is nothing that replaces the hard copy of your important documents.

The key to having a hard copy of these documents is to know where they are at a moments notice.  When you are in the midst of an emergency, the last thing that you want to have to think about is..‘where are those documents!  Additionally, you want emergency personnel to have quick access to these documents.   In our File For Life, I have a spreadsheet of TLO’s current meds, Doctor’s / Hospice contact information, Diagnosis, DNR and my contact information.  I also indicate in our File For Life, where the larger documents are located, I.e. Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will.

So…’What’s On Your Refrigerator?’

You see…We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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The Call For Hospice


Love And Compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.   Dalai Lama

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As we move into the second phase of palliative radiation treatment for TLO, it was important for both of us to bring in our ‘friends’ from Hospice of Broward County to help us in this journey.  The Hospice team arrived promptly at our home on Friday, thoroughly explained the process to both of us, it was peaceful as  we signed on the dotted line.

I used the word ‘friends at Hospice’ because that is what they are, they’re our friends.  We welcome friends into our home and we cherish the time that our friends come and visit with us. We look at these new friends and thank them for being a part of this journey with us.

We are also cognizant and want to recognize our ‘old’ friends too.  Sometimes when the word Hospice is used, there is that utter silence or that blank stare …that sense of ‘what do I say next’ …know that we understand that for some, the hospice conversation might be difficult.  That’s OK too! Because…

Sometimes

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Just being there is all that is needed! 

 windingroad We don’t know what the road ahead looks like for us. Sure, there will be a few swift curves, some winding roads and a missed turn or two.  Yet it will be all of our friends who will help celebrate this journey with us.  We’re realistic, but encouraged: We’re scared, but courageous.  We know we cannot do this alone. We’re thankful for all our friends and we are respectful of your comfort zone too.  Your thoughts, prayers, phone calls, e-mails, words or encouragement are most appreciated.  Because you have remember…

 We Might Have Cancer, But Cancer Does Not Have Us! 

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