Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Our local hospice

It's been an up and down few days since my last blog post though I felt quite a lot better yesterday and I'm hoping that will continue. I've been experiencing periods of intense nausea with Saturday being particularly difficult. The medics think I may have a sub-acute obstruction in my intestines hindering the movement of food through my body. The tumours in my abdomen could be causing this by pressing on my gut. I've been suffering from constipation which tallies with this explanation though I've resolved this for now thanks to copious quantities of laxatives. One thing I've come to realise as a cancer patient is that I end up spending a lot of time discussing bowel movements with doctors and nurses. It's not a subject that I've ever wanted to study in detail but it does seem to be an unavoidable part of this illness - it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "cancer is sh*t"!
I started my new treatment with pazopanib on Sunday. So far I can't identify any specific side effects which is a good start - I'm hoping it continues.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer my doctor referred me to our local hospice, Dorothy House. At the time I recall being rather unsure about engaging with a hospice, there is something very stark about being in a position where one is in need of the services they offer. I had never visited a hospice and I was concerned about what it would be like, it was difficult to imagine that it would feel like a good place to be. Luckily Katie and I did go ahead and meet with a specialist nurse from the hospice and we also visited the hospice for a guided tour. These two experiences removed the concerns I'd had and since then the hospice has been a very useful facility to call upon. In addition to providing residential care for those who are very seriously ill it also offers a wide range of services to people who have serious illnesses but who are not yet near the end of their life. It offers many services too for those caring for seriously ill people. Last week we were able to get the advice of a specialist pain consultant from the hospice and the specialist nurse is incredibly knowledgeable on managing the kind of symptoms people with late stage cancer get. The hospice provides a twenty four hour emergency number too and also works very closely with my doctor. 
I know that many people with cancer have similar concerns to mine about visiting a hospice and engaging with the staff. Psychologically it can be difficult for people to accept that they require the help a hospice can provide. From my own experience I would strongly recommend that terminally ill cancer patients seek an early referral to their local hospice, it is far better to meet the people and to visit the place when feeling relatively well than to leave it until later in the day. There is also research that shows that those patients that are referred earlier to hospices have a higher quality of life than patients that aren't referred until much later. I'm very thankful that we have the help and support of the hospice available to us.
Hospices rely heavily on charitable donations and represent a very good cause for anyone looking to find a local charity to support.

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