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- Nurse Barb
I’m reading Atul Gawande’s book Mortality and thought I’d share a story about how I care for my patients as they continue on life’s journey.
Katherine was one of my favorite patients. I met her when she was in her early 70’s and cared for her well into her 90’s. She was a breast cancer survivor and we were monitoring her bone health because she, like 1 in ?? women after menopause had developed osteoporosis. As she aged, our conversations changed. At each visit, she not only provided updates of her medical history, all of her new medications but I also heard the latest on her kids, saw the school photos of her grandkids, and best of all, listened to some of the best travel stories and advice before Trip Advisor was ever created. She and her husband took full advantage of retirement and managed 2- 3 trips each year to exotic locations I could only dream of.
I learned from caring for Katherine to live every moment. She brought in smudged black and white photos of her family smiling in their black rubber boots about to board a sea-plane in the early 60’s in the wilds of Alaska. I remember her telling me about a trip to St. Petersburg when she was 92, and how much she loved going back to visit Paris. “I love to walk wherever I go, the only thing that stops me now, is sometimes I get out of breath as I get older.”
When it comes to managing cancer pain, it is important to take time to consider the various options that might work best for you or your loved one. There are many factors to consider that sometimes might get overlooked until we find our loved one so sedated from pain medication that all they can do is sleep. Pain medications are strong, they act differently with different people and may leave some people feeling better, but so out of it that they can’t concentrate, or they may be confused, drowsy or feel intoxicated.
The key is to find a way to manage pain and also to try to help the person stay alert enough to enjoy their lives and the activities that have meaning for them. We also want to anticipate any pain flares or what’s know as Breakthrough Pains. These are often described as intense bouts of pain that occur when a person is already on a routine of regular prescription pain relief medications. This is often seen with opioid-based painkillers, like those containing codeine, morphine, or oxycodone. (more…)