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The Stormy Uncertainty of Cancer

Although hospitals can be like a second home, there is really no place like home
If I were to compare my sister’s cancer journey to anything, I think a storm would be apt, with a hospital stay being the heart of a hurricane. It is like a slow buildup of pressure and thunder before an admission, which most likely happens late on a Saturday night. The rain begins to pour. After a long week of just making it through, she usually ended up in the emergency department at The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA), despite my best efforts.

The most difficult times were when things seemed so out of control at home and I could no longer manage her seemingly endless list of symptoms. This is what made a hospital visit cross my mind. It was never an easy decision to make, but it had to be considered.

It was hard because having her in the hospital was always the last thing that anybody – especially her – wanted. She would be admittedly nearly 80 times in the three years she had cancer, and often those stays lasted for weeks at a time.

This was hard for me, as her sister and her caregiver. As her sister, I slept next to her far more than I slept at home. So, when she was in the hospital, so was I. As a caregiver, it felt that I had somehow failed, especially as time went on, because I was supposed to know how to take care of her. Yet no matter how hard I tried, she still would end up back in the hospital.

For my sister, I think the line between home and hospital became a blurred one. She was always surrounded by love and support when she was a patient. In the hospital, her worries were soothed because it became more familiar. Eventually, it became easier to be a patient in the hospital than a patient at home. In her mind, nurses were more like friends than somebody providing care. And because of the copious amount of time spent there, it came to seem more like home than her real home.

The first time she was there, she could not wait to be discharged. The second time, we did a consult with a nurse because she seemingly did not want to come home. Looking back, I am sure that fear was driving her desire to stay. When there, the unknowns were not for her to worry about. If anything were to have happened, she had round-the-clock care and treatments could be given within moments. To her, that meant that she was always going to be OK.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
Kim is a nursing student who is hoping to find her place amongst the phenomenal oncology nurses and doctors who cared for her sister. She loves reading, volunteering and enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
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