How an extra layer of care is bringing relief to a family dealing with serious cancerCath Davis
Heather Duiker* is 78. Her daughter, Geraldine (45) describes her mom as creative, loyal, and straight-forward. Two years ago, Heather was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, and Geraldine now adds “tough” to the list describing her mom.
“When we heard the diagnosis, there was such disbelief. Then we were just shattered,” says Geraldine.
But Heather just wanted to find out what she needed to know, and what she needed to do to fight it. “My mom is a real fighter!”
The early chemotherapy was effective, but Geraldine hesitates on the radiation treatment. “The radiation was hard on my mom. It affected her ability to eat and swallow when it was done around the lung area. But this healed. Then, when the preventative radiation was done on the brain, it appears as though it affected some mental capabilities, and her mobility. The doctors say it’s not conclusive that they are related, but in my opinion, it seems quite coincidental.”
“We didn’t know this level of support existed and we now have access to a very understanding and compassionate expert team”
Recognising that Heather, and her family – Heather’s husband, Michael, and their son, Charles (54) and Geraldine – could benefit from an extra layer of care and support, Heather’s doctor, Dr S, referred her to Alignd, and palliative care doctor, Dr K, in July this year (2021).
Some might have rejected the referral – Heather wasn’t weeks away from dying, and she didn’t want to give up so why recommend palliative care for her? So many people assume palliative care is offered when there is no hope but that’s not the case. Palliative care should be accessed on diagnosis of a serious cancer, and alongside disease-directed treatment. The benefits of early referral are many.
The right kind of care, at the right time
“It sounded like the right kind of care we all needed. Dr K and her team brought about a sense of relief, comfort and support. We didn’t know this level of support existed and we now have access to a very understanding and compassionate expert team,” says Geraldine.
“It’s given us all the strength to carry on. If anyone has serious cancer, they should ask for a palliative care referral”
“Between the palliative care team and our dedicated Alignd care partner, there is always someone to reach out to for advice and support. That offers so much relief to a family caring for their wife and mom at home. And as a family, we all have access to counselling. Dr K also drew up an emergency home care plan which means we will be able to avoid emergency room visits at all hours, which are traumatic and often result in ICU stays.
“And because, sadly, a huge part of serious illness care, is admin and bills and phone calls and approvals, we felt lucky that my mom’s medical scheme, Bonitas, has partnered with Alignd – all this valuable extra care comes with no bills – it’s part of her cover.
“Without this care, things would be very difficult for my mom and us – the support for the family is particularly valuable. It’s given us all the strength to carry on. If anyone has serious cancer, they should ask for a palliative care referral.”
*Names have been changed