Recently, Stuart Scott, an ESPN sports anchor died of stomach cancer. In reading tributes to him, several quotations were mentioned from his speech at the 2014 ESPY Awards:
"I have one more necessity ― it's really two," he said, referring to his daughters. "The best thing I have ever done, the best thing I will ever do, is be a dad .... It's true."
"Don't give up. Don't ever give up."
"When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live."
When my mother, Stasy Heile, entered Midwest CareCenter's hospice suite at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, I was certain she was near the end. Mom had experienced a hemorrhage in her brain and was in an unresponsive state. My five siblings and I stood vigil with her 24/7 and I was probably there the most, so I got to see the hospice unit in action and I was blown away. The empathy, care and compassion – we were just overwhelmed with love from these people who had never met us.
Midwest CareCenter spearheaded two collection drives for those in need this holiday season and the response has been overwhelming. All week there has been a steady stream of volunteers, staff and friends coming in with their donations. They are coming to the aid of one of our patients whose family needed extra support over the holidays. The patient, a 21-year old mother of two children, died in our hospice this week.
The concept of dying with dignity is frequently in the news. The latest has been Brittany Maynard's wish to end her life. Brittany had the same brain tumor as my husband, Tom – a glioblastoma.
I understand Brittany's decision. The end game with this type of cancer is not pretty. Our family, however, took a different approach.
Tom's tumor presented itself in his spine. In the beginning, Tom had difficulty walking but the tumor quickly progressed, leaving him paralyzed in a matter of months. If you knew Tom, being immobile was not his style. He was that dad who played catch with our son and daughter and all the neighborhood kids. In the nicer months of the year, he had a regular, weekly tee time at a local golf course and tried to sneak in a couple of extra rounds of golf every week, too. He traveled with his job and we took some exceptional vacations. After living and caring for someone who is paralyzed, I have incredible empathy towards people who are confined to wheelchairs – it is not easy. But it would have been impossible if one of our neighbors hadn't made coming over every day to help me with Tom part of his daily routine.