I feel so blessed to live during a time when advances in medical care and technology have helped many to live with or live through life-altering conditions, exceeding disease trajectories by not just weeks, but months and even years. But there comes a point in a serious illness when even the most cutting-edge, technical, and specialized medical interventions do not get us where we want to be.
Early on in my hospice career, I was taught a beautiful lesson: healing does not mean cure. I had a 36 year old patient who was terminally ill with sinus cancer. He had endured several painful and unsuccessful facial reconstruction surgeries which had left his face scarred and bloated. He was married with a teenaged son.
The most important thing to know about my wife, Shirley Weisbrod, is that she has been a remarkable person all of her life.
By age 12 she would head out all alone each Saturday, taking two street cars from her Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago to the Field Museum in order to get lost in their exhibits.
Three years later, she had become a talented seamstress and dress designer, eventually gaining an acceptance letter from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Ultimately, however, she attended the University of Illinois, earning a degree in education, and later earned a fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin.)
Our organization is among several health leaders who are committed to a mission: Breaking the taboo about discussing end-of-life issues.
While our staff makes efforts every day to help people in our community share their advance directives with loved ones, we also recently teamed up with Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being this fall to host "Death Over Dinner." This program, which was born out of a separate conference hosted with Repogle last year, is designed to inspire people to talk about often-shunned subjects ― death and the dying proces