Physicians and Family Members Must Find the Courage and Compassion to Talk about Dying … before It’s Too Late.
By Linda Campanella
I was with my mother and father when the oncologist told Mom the recommended course of treatment for lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain was “palliative, not curative.” Because we are a medical family (my father is a radiologist), we understood what the word “palliative” meant in this context, and there was no misunderstanding the meaning of “not curative.”
The cancer was terminal; it was going to kill my mother. Any treatments would relieve symptoms, but would not cure the disease.
Before we left the oncologist’s office, appointments for initial radiation therapy and chemotherapy sessions were made, and the overall course of treatments had been explained. But, in these anxiety-inducing and grief-filled moments when our family’s journey through incurable, terminal disease was beginning, not a word was said about the full spectrum and promise of palliative care or about the gift hospice would represent when the journey was coming to an end.