I read an excellent recent article on the pallimed website regarding this common question of “Am I giving up on fighting cancer when I choose hospice?” In it the author Amy Velasquez RN BSN OCN, a palliative care nurse specializing in helping cancer patients, discusses this weighty issue:
In my line of work with cancer patients, they have taught me strength, courage and most of all faith. Our goal as the palliative care team is to find out what the patient’s absolute end goal is, and is it attainable? A patient that has stage 4 lung cancer has been diagnosed with a cancer that is termed “incurable.” So does that mean if they die from this cancer they gave up or didn’t fight hard enough or didn’t have enough faith? I think only you can answer that question. But let me remind you that stopping a race because your lactic acid is burning the living heck out of your legs, and you can no longer keep up in school anymore, is something YOU have control over. When a cancer decides to take over despite the heart and soul your oncologist has put in your treatment plan, and all the faith you have given to eradicate this cancer, this is NOT a definition of giving up.
When patients are given the diagnosis of “incurable” cancer, the goal should be to find a treatment that will extend their life as long as possible, and also balance the side effects with their quality of life. Cancer treatments have come so far in the last 15 years. Most importantly, the oncologist and researchers are always creating new novel treatments to search for a cure or to extend someone’s life as long as they can while living with an incurable cancer. The palliative care team works side by side with the oncologist to make this happen. We rely on direction from the oncologist and the patient to direct us in their goals. Of course everyone wants the “C” word to be cured, but if it cannot, what is your goal?
Now your goal can be to live as long as you can while feeling halfway decent. So stopping cancer treatment and doing best supportive care—just treating the symptoms of the cancer does not mean you are giving up. Even going on hospice when your cancer has made a decision you do not agree with also does not mean you gave up. It means you had no control over the cancer’s stupid decision, but you do have control over how you look at stopping treatment. This is different for everyone. So if this is you, please don’t say “but I don’t want to give up.” Please dig deep and find out what is really important to you and share this with your family, let them know, that you are not making the decision to stop treatment. The stupid cancer has made this decision for you.
There’s more in this excellent article: What Does Giving Up Really Mean – I encourage you to read it and share with others.