Lung Cancer

Thoughts on recurrence, death and dying

While some people were optimistic and appeared confident that they would survive, others feared that cancer would recur. A few people were unsure about their prognosis, and expressed their thoughts and feelings about death and dying. One woman said that palliative care and good pain control can give people additional months to live.

In November 2002, a patient was told that he might be dead by Christmas. He was confident that his treatment was working, but he told his doctor that if he were to need nursing care he would like to have a bed in hospital because he did not want to be a burden to his wife.

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Some people were quite philosophical, reflecting that death comes to all of us. One said that at least he had had the opportunity to organise his life and his funeral and would not have to worry about old age and the stage of life when people become decrepit.

Another man had an admirable sense of humour. Thinking that he probably had a year or perhaps eighteen months to live he decided to hold his own wake for charity. Still alive months later he organised another 'do' which he called his Still Awake Wake, collecting more money for Cancer Care.

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A few people worried about the manner of their death. One woman, who had watched her sister die of cancer, was not convinced that pain could always be controlled and hoped that her family might help her die peacefully if the quality of life became intolerable. However, others were confident that pain would be controlled. One man was reassured that there are now health professionals who specialise in pain management. He was determined to die with dignity.

Some hospitals routinely offer all cancer patients the opportunity to meet the palliative care team and a visit to a hospice. However, some people who are still being treated for lung cancer do not want to visit a hospice, even if the prognosis is somewhat uncertain. One woman felt upset and angry when she was invited to visit a hospice at a time when she was feeling quite well. Another woman hoped that she would be able to die in her own bed at home, but made an appointment to visit a local hospice just in case nursing care was needed. She felt reassured and relieved to find that the hospice was a 'wonderful place'.

Last reviewed May 2016.

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