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A Place for Tom

Posted by Marlene Delaney

A Place for Tom
Marlene and Tom on vacation with their children.

My name is Marlene and it was about five years ago that Midwest Palliative and Hospice Center was introduced to me. My husband, Tom, had been battling terminal cancer ― a glioblastoma located in his spine ― for a year. Surgery, radiation, physical therapy, hospital stays, blood tests, and numerous cycles of various chemotherapies defined that year but the cancer kept winning. During that year I was fortunate enough to be his full- time caregiver.

Although it was emotionally and physically exhausting, that year allowed us to reconfirm our love for each other. But we also had time to talk about many things ― including death. My husband did not want to be a burden. He did not want me to spend large sums of money on treatments that probably wouldn't prolong his life and wouldn't improve his quality of life. Although we never really talked about hospice, I knew that someday I might have to make the choice to end his treatments and start hospice.

That decision was more or less made for me when Tom had a massive seizure. The cancer had spread to his brain and there was nothing more the doctors at the University of Chicago could do for him. His neuro-oncologist recommended inpatient hospice care at Midwest CareCenter. As he said, I had taken care of Tom for a year and now I just needed to be able to say goodbye. At that time, the facility was located in an office building in Skokie. From the outside, it didn't look like what I expected and probably was nothing like the current facility but from the moment we arrived, it felt like we were entering a magical place. A place where everyone was gentle and caring, a place where they not only took care of Tom but took care of me and my teenage children, and a place where Tom would be comfortable dying.

The rooms were private, quiet, and comfortable. The chapel was soothing. The kitchen area was convenient and always had coffee. And although I had hoped that Tom would have a quick death, since he was only 48 years old, it took almost two weeks for him to die. But those two weeks changed my life. I learned through the loving touch of the doctors, nurses, therapists, chaplains, and volunteers that it was okay to cry and laugh. I learned that death shouldn't be feared. And that the hospice workers who started as strangers in my life but became close friends, gave us the strength to say goodbye to a great husband and father ― and the strength to plan for our future.

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