Every patient has a story...

The Most Peaceful Breath

A daughter shares her father’s journey towards his final moments of life.

It was early January 2018, when my father, Charlie DeGregoria, asked me to come by to talk about something.  I knew it couldn’t be good, because he hadn’t done that since I was a teenager in trouble.  He sat me down and just came out with, “I’ve been diagnosed with cancer.”  Of course my initial reaction was shock, followed by a slew of questions.  “What kind?” “Are you going to Sloan Kettering?” “What are the next steps?”  “What do I need to do?”  Then the tears………

My dad was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma.  Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) is a rare cancer that starts in smooth muscles that line organs like your stomach, bladder, and intestines.  His tumor was attached to his stomach and the prognosis was not good.  There is no treatment protocol for this kind of cancer because it is so rare.  Every doctor we spoke to basically told us to make sure his affairs were in order.  Despite the odds, he tried a round of chemotherapy, but the tumor just continued to grow.  There really was nothing else for him to do, but to continue with the palliative care for managing the horrible pain he was having.

The day finally came when we knew it was time to make a decision about where he should go.  The hospital was not an option and I knew my father would not want this prolonged.  I am lucky enough to know someone on the Board of the Regional Hospice, so I reached out to her to see what she recommended.  Without any hesitation, she said, “Take him to the Center!”  It was a relief for me because I really did not want to have him in the alternatives.

Regional Hospice provided my father with exceptional care.  From the moment we walked in, it was about him, his wishes, and his needs.  They made sure he was comfortable, clean, and pain free.  The Center not only took care of my dad, but they made sure that those of us that were there with him were looked after too.  I truly believe that the only people the Center hires are angels from heaven.  There is just no other way to describe every single person there. 

Over the course of two weeks, they prepared us for what we knew we were there for.  On that last day, my father took the most peaceful last breath.  I left knowing that he went quietly and everyone there made that possible.  I couldn’t ask for more and because of this, the Center will always have a special place in my heart.

We had lost my sister, Laura, some years ago, with a very different experience.  Listening to all the noises of the hospital, the beeps, the chatter, all the staff hustling around, and the people who would walk by and stare into our room were just distracting and disturbing.  Trying to find a nurse or aide to bring anything was always difficult. Anyone that did come into the room treated us like we weren’t even there. I had to watch my mother wailing in the sitting area that was down the hall from her room in the hospital.  I’m sure everyone on the floor was woken up by all the commotion. 

There is no other loss like losing a child and I think my parents would have appreciated the privacy of dealing with the loss of their child.  If they had had the support, as I did with my father, I think it would have helped with their coping abilities. I heard about the fund raising that the Regional Hospice was doing for the new pediatric wing.  I decided that I needed to give back to this amazing place, so I decided to become a volunteer there.  This was something that hit home for me. 

Having experienced losing loved ones in these two ways only showed me that this type of center is vital.  The Center supports all the aspects of losing someone.  And those angels from Heaven that work there are truly the best. 

Written by Rachel DeGregoria – Forever grateful to Regional Hospice