How Palliative Care Helped Amy Get Back to Her Hobbies
Amy is in her mid-40s and loves the outdoors—especially biking, hiking, and walking her dog.
In the fall of 2018, she felt a lump on her neck, and when it did not go away, she visited her primary care doctor. After many tests, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes and femur (thigh bone). She was devastated and scared.
A few weeks later, Amy started treatment with radiation and a medicine that helps the body’s immune system fight cancer. This combination can get cancer under control but may cause side effects.
After a month of treatment, Amy’s oncologist, or cancer doctor, recognized that she could use an extra layer of support to deal with her symptoms and stress. A palliative care nurse started to visit her at home every week and was available by phone whenever Amy needed to reach out. She helped Amy through her difficult treatments, both physically and emotionally. The goal was to get her back to feeling like herself again, which to her, meant being active and riding her bike.
This is Amy’s palliative care story.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It’s appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment. Depending on where you live, palliative care is available in a number of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics and at home.
Managing Side Effects
Before Amy’s first palliative care visit, she was having a hard time with the side effects of treatment, including being in a lot of pain and having trouble eating.
“I had pretty bad diarrhea, vomiting, and could not eat at all. The only thing I could really eat was a popsicle and yogurt here and there. I was losing a ton of weight, pretty much ten pounds per month. I couldn’t walk, and could barely get anywhere without help.”
Having palliative care to support her made a big difference in her ability to continue with her treatment. She worked closely with her nurse, who was helping to manage her side effects, which included making sure she took medication at the right time. Palliative care also helped her manage anxiety and depression, and made communication with all of her doctors easier.
With the help of palliative care, Amy was able to continue treatment and start doing things that matter to her.
“With the help of palliative care, I was able to get back to riding my bike. And as of today, I am able to ride my bike at least ten miles per week. I’m able to hike. I’m able to walk my dog again, and I’m actually thinking about going back to work, and that will make a huge difference.”
To learn more about palliative care and how it can help you or someone you love who is living with cancer or another serious illness, visit GetPalliativeCare.org. You can also check out the Palliative Care Provider Directory, which lets you search for a palliative care provider in your area and by setting.