Hospice helps advanced cancer patients cope - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hospice helps advanced cancer patients cope

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- This Buddy Check 7 report comes as Elizabeth Edwards has lost her 6-year battle with breast cancer.  Here in eastern Iowa, healthcare providers work to address both the physical and emotional toll on patients in the final stages of advanced cancer.

Getting a cancer diagnosis can be scary for anyone, but learning that the cancer is advanced and life-threatening presents unique challenges for both patients and healthcare providers.

"At that point in your life, people wish for every single day, and so our goal in hospice is to make sure every day they have left is the best day of life we can help them with," said Dr. Mike Deters of Cedar Valley Hospice.

It's a point reached when traditional cancer therapies are no longer an option.  So the focus shifts to managing the symptoms to keep patients comfortable while also helping them cope with the emotional toll the disease can take.

"The caregivers and families feelings and their reactions to their loved one's illness lags behind the patient.  And so we have to look at many different viewpoints when taking care of the patient and also counseling those people that are very close to the dying patient," said Dr. Deters.

At Cedar Valley hospice, most patients receive care in their final days right in their very own homes.  Others choose to go to the hospice house in Waterloo.  Whatever choice a patient makes, hospice staff works to identify what a patients wants to accomplish before they die.  And like Elizabeth Edwards, the majority of patients don't ask for much.

"It's truly their goal.  Not a lot of our patients want to go sky-diving or do things that are really dramatic or in any way risky.  We find they really want to spend time with their family, their friends, the people who are the most dear to them," said Laura Edler, a nurse with Cedar Valley Hospice.

Despite what you may think, hospice care takers say the process of saying goodbye is not dark and gloomy.  Patients often come to a crossroads where they decide living is just much harder than dying.  So it's rather often a beautiful process of closing the chapter on life.

Studies have shown that patients who receive some kind of hospice care tend to live longer.  The support system provided can often help a patient extend their life by a full month or more.

And on this 7th of the month, KWWL wants to remind you to find a buddy in the fight against breast cancer.  Remind each other to keep up-to-date on exams.  Early detection is key to a quick recovery.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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