Deborah’s Story

Deborah is a 36-year-old mother of an eight-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy. Diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, she has metastatic disease involving her bones. This condition is causing severe pain. It has been hard to care for her children and get to work. Her oncologists, renowned leaders in their field, have focused intensively on controlling her cancer and identifying the chemotherapy plans that are most likely to work for her.

Deborah intends to fight this cancer with everything she has, and to be here for her kids as they grow up. Recently the pain has gotten so bad that she has been unable to sleep or eat, spending much of her day curled on her side in bed. She missed a course of chemotherapy because of the pain, and she has had to hire outside help to get her kids to and from school.

Her longtime internist finally referred her to the palliative care team at her local hospital. Within two days of beginning low-dose opioid therapy, her pain was well controlled; she was up and around, sleeping and eating, and back to her normal life with her family. She has been able to complete her latest course of chemotherapy, and her oncologist feels her scans are showing a good response to the treatment.

Deborah thinks every patient with cancer should work with a palliative care team along with his or her oncologist. She wonders how she would have gotten through her illness without them.