Hope for cancer patients lies on two extreme ends of the spectrum of life — hope for a cure or hope for death with dignity. During my uncle’s journey of fighting prostate cancer, I realised the importance of palliative services. Cancer patients are already faced with challenges on multiple levels: physical, emotional and financial. To be able to ease their suffering at any level is indeed a tremendous service to humanity.
My uncle fought bravely throughout his treatment, which included chemotherapy and radiotherapy, at the Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore. However, the cancer had spread rather aggressively and his condition rapidly deteriorated. In a matter of days, he was unrecognisable. However, his spirit remained unbroken till the very end. During this time, his treatment plan included palliative care which involved a team of nurses with special training and consultation by a palliative medicine doctor to manage his symptoms and provide him relief from suffering. He was offered care that treated him as a human first and retaining his dignity. I will never forget the moment when the nurse, knowing he was unresponsive, still spoke to him, informing him that he was going to wipe his face, clean his eyes and swab his mouth. I was losing my uncle and in that extremely hopeless situation, the only comfort came from the type of personalized care he was receiving at the hospital.
Although cancer consumed his life in the end, the hospital ensured it did not take away his dignity —that his last breath was breathed in peace.
Our country only has a handful of palliative medicine consultants. Considering how important it is to a patient who is suffering, I would like to appeal to young doctors in Pakistan to choose this mode of serving humanity.
The original article was published in the Tribune and you can find it here https://tribune.com.pk/letter/2252507/palliative-care