Q. I am 67 years old and have had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 7 years. I have decided not to receive further treatment. What will happen as I progress? Will I have pain?
You have made a difficult decision to change the focus of your treatment from curative to palliative. No doubt this decision was made after careful consideration and consultation with your doctors and members of your support team.
Most people report that they are not as fearful about dying as they are about the possibility of experiencing pain and distress. There are many ways to address physical pain and you can learn specific ways to describe your pain to your treatment team in our booklet, Controlling Cancer Pain: What You Need to Know to Get Relief.
Palliative care may be available through your local treatment center, or may be accessed through hospice. Palliative care and hospice services are provided by medical professionals who have an expertise in managing symptoms, social workers who provide support you and your family, and chaplains who provide spiritual care. Getting to know your team of health care professionals early after you decide to pursue palliative treatment will allow them to get to know you and your preferences, as well as how you respond to pain management techniques. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Caring Connections website offers information about living with a serious illness and pain management. We offer a fact sheet, Your Health Care Team: Your Doctor is Only the Beginning, that outlines professionals who may be available to help you.
Hospice care recognizes that for some people with cancer, a cure is not possible. The focus of hospice services is to create the best quality of life for a patient by treating his or her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, as well as supporting family needs.
While your care at this time is palliative in nature, the importance of hope can not be dismissed. Hope is that balance between positive attitude and expectations for the future. Hope can continue to nourish you, and you can nurture hope through the way in which you continue to live your life. Settling old problems and practical affairs will give you peace of mind. Make plans with family and friends as you are able to continue to engage in the activities that you enjoy. Focusing on the purpose and goals of each day will set up an achievable plan and completing what you can each day will give you satisfaction that you have done your best.