Do you know what the operator or person at the front desk is saying about palliative care?  When people call, saying the want palliative care, how are they responding? A study being presented in abstract form at the palliative care and oncology research symposium addresses this simple but critical question. Researchers at Duke (Kathryn Hutchins, third-year medical student first author, Arif Kamal, oncopal researcher, senior author) cold called 40 major comprehensive cancer ...

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David was 42 when he died from stomach cancer. He spent the last year of his life receiving useless chemotherapy and debilitating radiation. David was in terrible pain all of the time. He stayed in bed for months as cancer destroyed his ribs, back and lungs. Finally, David was rushed to a hospital, plugged into a breathing machine and pierced by countless IV drips. He died despite a battery of tests, ...

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When Kara Tippetts, a 38-year-old mother of four, died of breast cancer last year, more than 17,000 people live-streamed her funeral. Tippetts gained national prominence through her blog, where she confronted her impending death directly and offered a refreshingly frank take on what it's like to have a terminal disease. Unfortunately, the openness Tippetts displayed is usually missing where it's needed most: hospitals. Doctors, nurses and other caregivers are often reluctant ...

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It started, as far as I know, with a twinge. A back spasm in a healthy, but prone to back spasms, 68-year-old man, who soon was reduced to near tears in the parking lot of the Thai restaurant where we’d gone to get take out. It was early summer, and I was on a short visit to the east coast. My mother was the one to worry about. She had ...

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“Food is love,” my partner jokes as she unloads mountains of food from her latest trip to Costco. “I can’t help it! I’m Jewish!” she protests, when I wonder aloud how the two of us will ever manage to consume all that food. As the lineups at superstores attest, for a great many people being able to prepare and serve meals is a vital way of showing love. I never expected to ...

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Hospitals have always served as a lifeline to survival. Whether from pneumonia, heart attack, stroke, or trauma, they have been a community safeguard between life and death. Today, a cost of care has been added to the patient treatment discussion forcing medical decision-making to look closely at expense. Financial considerations have come to the forefront as preservation of resources will be important to national health care. This can be a threat ...

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Mom. She was a feisty 100 percent Italian, straight from New Jersey. Her dad, straight from Italy, was a tailor and made the finest suits for New York and New Jersey businessmen. Mom learned this trade well. She could sew some of the most beautiful tailored suits for herself. She loved to cook and every night was a banquet, a feast which required up to 2 hours of clean-up time ...

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The world can be a lonely place. Despite technology designed to bring us closer, it seems we've become more isolated. We view profiles rather than embrace complete individuals. We spend hours crafting a persona, a smooth and unblemished public face. Raw, unattractive emotions: grief, insecurity, jealousy. We mask those from others and even hide them from our deepest selves. Ultimately, rather than becoming more connected, I suspect we are cast ...

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I knew it was bad when she couldn’t tell me her name. I watched her face fill with frustration as a word she had uttered countless times over eight decades somehow got lost between her brain and her lips. It was 2 a.m. and I was on call as the surgical resident. I had been told that a patient with bladder cancer was being transferred from another hospital, and, as these ...

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During the first few days that my mother spent in hospice, I silently sat by her bed watching her chest rise and fall, listening to her moan, counting her doses of Ativan, Tylenol, and Morphine, and tallying the days she’d been without food and water. On day five of my vigil, I asked her nurse, “How long can Mom live like this? She hasn’t opened her eyes or eaten or had ...

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