Chapter 18 -------- A Hospice of Questions
A big decision for Danielle was deciding which hospice to choose. We had received information about the different options while we were in the hospital in Flagstaff. I had already started doing some additional research before we scheduled appointments. It was important for me to find the best Hospice for Danielle. However, Danielle’s high standards and demands would create additional challenges.
Due to her medication sensitivity issues, it would be ideal to find a group that would cater to Danielle’s necessities. Hospice was an extension of the Medical Establishment, so the solutions were going to be similar to what the hospitals provided. The traditional approach worried Danielle as she didn’t want to rely on prescription medications. To our surprise, we were soon to find out a wealth of new additional information.
The first hospice we interviewed, sent two nurses for the initial appointment. Danielle was tremendously anxious about the meeting, with the whole idea of hospice stressing her to the core. She had a million questions for the ladies who came over. Danielle wanted to be informed about every possible outcome. All questions about her specific disease and how the dying process would proceed. All the questions were difficult to ask, but without those answers, Danielle wouldn’t feel at ease.
Some of Danielle’s biggest concerns were that she was worried that she might have made the wrong choices. Danielle specifically asked if she chose the correct path of treatment. I couldn’t believe the response, and I was amazed by the honesty of the nurse. The nurse told us that considering Danielle’s diagnosis of stage 3C ovarian cancer, that she would not have undergone chemo or radiation either.
It was one of those moments that the universe made sure to remind us that chemo could have possibly killed Danielle faster than she already was. It also reaffirmed that the success rate in late-stage Ovarian Cancer is low. If a hospice nurse were willing to share that choice, then I would have to expect Danielle made the right choice too. The only study I could find showed under a nine percent chance of survival to five years with chemotherapy. Now it was more than just statistics because someone who witnessed the aftermath of chemo confirmed those suspicions.
Danielle was additionally worried about pain management options. This hospice informed us that there weren’t any natural options available. They instead used different medications dosages to help with the pain, which means that they could provide micro doses. Hospice gave me the first answer that was legitimate for treating my wife. I believe this is because many people become hypersensitive to medications towards the end of their lives. Their statements did not ease Danielle's concerns.
The most disturbing part to me was that we weren’t going to be getting much support from the nurses involved. Hospice informed us that a nurse would only be visiting several times a week, and the visits would be about an hour. While this wasn’t as important for our situation since we had extra help, it did make me start to observe the shortcomings of our Hospice system. Had we needed more help, it wasn’t going to be provided even under my wife’s incredible health insurance plan.
The biggest thing that they reassured us is that if any complications were to arise that we could contact them at any time. They would then send out a nurse to help with any medical situation. The nurse would then stay until the patient stabilized. The service was available 24 hours a day and even on the weekends. It offered some relief but not quite what we had expected. We asked why they didn’t come by daily. They said that it wasn’t usually until the last weeks of life that they need to send out nurses for continuous care.
They also said that there was a lot of support staff that would also be helping in the Hospice program. I thought it was great that they offered emotional support too. Priests, therapists, and volunteers were all possible options. It wasn’t something that particularly appealed to Danielle because she would prefer her privacy. Danielle was not interested in letting many new people into her life. She had already recruited the support she wanted.
Danielle wasn’t completely sold on the first organization even though she liked the nurses. Danielle appreciated their honesty, and that gave them a foot up on any competition. Danielle needed trust and confidence before she would make any decision. The trust was there but not quite the confidence. The second option held a more optimistic choice because of the additional services they provided. My research showed this was a more likely candidate.
The second visit happened the day after our first meeting. The first hospice had already prepared us, so now it was finding out the additional information that set them apart. We had three incredible nurses arrive to share the information with us. Danielle again had a great connection with the nurses and even felt the same level of honesty from the nurses. It had everything that we liked about the other hospice, but what set them apart was the added benefit of natural treatments.
I couldn’t believe that they offered the options of doing acupuncture, massage work, or spiritual guidance. Then to top it all off, they also offered herbal medications. Shocking news to both Danielle and me because we had never had the medical establishment offer us anything other than traditional synthetic medications. Now we were going to be given a choice. Danielle even opened up a conversation about using Medical Marijuana. They supported the usage of it and even encouraged that Danielle uses other methods of delivery.
Danielle and I were thrilled at the added support and options we were going to have if we choose the second hospice. The nurses were also very professional and promised we would receive very experienced nurses. Danielle wouldn’t settle for second best. While it was still a very difficult decision for Danielle to make, it was an obvious choice between the two options. The nurses already won my favor by provided me an opportunity to expand Danielle’s medications.
I was thrilled by the prospect. I, for months, had wanted Danielle to start vaping medical marijuana oil. I had in my experience enjoyed the concentrated effect. Often, a small puff would provide the same results as smoking much more from a traditional pipe. The fact that she could get a more concentrated dosage would help provide even more immediate relief. The topical and edible products we were using would take thirty minutes to an hour to kick in. The vaping would provide almost immediate relief. The challenge for me would be to find a product that Danielle could smoke.
Danielle was sensitive to chemicals before we met, and now in her weakened state, she was hypersensitive. I couldn’t use most of the products produced on the market because they used chemicals like butane or alcohol to extract the oil. Thankfully I knew there was a process that uses CO2 to extract the oil, and it makes a far cleaner extract for cancer patients. The other issue was finding something with a high enough level of the proper cannabinoids.
THC the most commonly used cannabinoid on the market because of the psychoactive properties was not what Danielle needed. Danielle wouldn’t react very well to large doses of THC. The psychoactive properties would cause too much anxiety and loss of control. Danielle was scared of losing control. The added fear was also due to her improperly dosing herself with a large quantity of Rick Simpson Oil. CBD oil was the best solution for remedying that.
The problem with CBD products is that at the time it was still a developing industry. Few products existed on the market with high CBD concentrations. The demand was not there yet. The local Sedona Dispensary discontinued several strains of high CBD flower because they weren’t selling as well. Although most of the concentrates there were produced with chemical solvents. My search proved how few products met the qualifications Danielle needed.
I needed to find a high dosage of CBD strain. Ideally, I wanted a no THC strain, like Charlotte's Web, made in high concentrations without the use of chemical irritants. The best product that I was able to find at a nearby dispensary was a three-part CBD to one-part THC vape in a forty percent concentration. It wasn’t quite as strong as I was looking for, but it was made using a CO2 extraction process. It was a better solution, and I had Hospice to thank.
Luckily Danielle’s insurance was also going to cover all expenses when it came to Hospice. It had taken a little financial stress off of us because she also wouldn’t be in treatment anymore. It was a small relief to both of us, considering we weren’t going to be having to worry about money for a while. With almost five months of funds available, it was looking up. Then another miracle happened.
One of our helpers, the mother of Danielle’s prized student Rose, delivered a message from her daughter in Europe. It was a touching message which brought Danielle to tears. The letter also informed Danielle that she was coming to visit. It must have been such a shock to learn about Danielle’s declining health. Danielle was, after all, in most of her student's minds indestructible.