What A Terminal Illness Cannot Do

By Jenna Miosek, RN, BSN, CHPN, patient care manager

While working as a nurse for Hospice of the Red River Valley, I have had numerous opportunities to take care of people at their worst physical states. In many of the cases, cancer is the devastating catalyst for their rapidly declining health.

Some people may wonder how professionals can deal with death and dying on a continuous basis. The answer may vary for every person in this career field, but one summer day a couple of years ago, it became clear to me why I was able to go to work every morning and face these challenges. After this realization, I came across the most amazingly strong human spirits—people with inspiring stories of love, joy and passion for life, no matter how short lived their lives may be.

One particular day, I was asked to speak with a woman with a terminal illness of cancer about hospice care. When obtaining the history of her disease progression, I learned much more than I had imagined. What deeply affected me was not learning of the metastatic nature of the cancer, but of the metastatic nature of her love and of those all around her.

The woman and her husband shared their story with me, not only of the immense love they had for one another, but the enormous displays of love and support they received from people who touched their lives—friends, neighbors, former coworkers, health care professionals, community clergy and even acquaintances. Lined along their banister were various cards, letters, notes and trinkets to offer condolences, words of hope and messages of strength. One rainbow bright card caught my attention, and I asked if I could read it. The woman said, “of course.” The words on the card resonated with me:

What Cancer Cannot Do
It cannot cripple Love…
It cannot erode Faith…
It cannot destroy Peace…
It cannot kill Friendship…
It cannot suppress Memories…
It cannot silence Courage…
It cannot invade the Soul…
It cannot steal eternal Life…
It cannot conquer the Spirit.
(Anonymous)

I was blessed to visit her a few more times after our initial meeting. I taught her family about the dying process and empowered them with the tools to keep her as comfortable as possible through pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. The woman passed away comfortably, in her home, surrounded by many loved ones at her side. Throughout the entire journey, the words on the rainbow colored card brightly shined on her banister. I will never forget them.

Jenna Miosek is a patient care manager at Hospice of the Red River Valley.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email questions@hrrv.org or visit www.hrrv.org.