How terminal patients are living without fear

TERMINAL cancer patient Julie Newey does not fear death.

Conversations with health professionals and family have given the Maleny woman confidence that palliative care she receives will spare her from a painful end.

The importance of those conversations is what Ms Newey and Sunshine Coast Specialist Palliative Care Service clinical director Louise Welch want to highlight in the lead-up to Palliative Care Week.

Sunshine Coast palliative care nurse David Ruzicka and patient Julie Newey use telehealth conferencing in Ms Newey's Maleny home.
Sunshine Coast palliative care nurse David Ruzicka and patient Julie Newey use telehealth conferencing in Ms Newey's Maleny home. Photo Contributed

Ms Newey was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.

The cancer spread into her skeletal system and liver despite surgery and radiation treatment.

"I don't ask for a prognosis," Ms Newey, 62, said.

"I do believe a lot of it depends on your own spirit, your desire to live and the resilience of your body."

Her adult daughters do not live locally, so technological advancements such as telehealth conferencing with her palliative care specialists have made life easier. "There have been times in my treatment I was feeling so low that I thought death was the next thing," Ms Newey said.

Those were times when driving to see doctors was a task almost unimaginable.

"It (telehealth) certainly is a great assistance to people," she said.

Dr Welch said palliative care was all about quality.

DYING WISH: Palliative care specialist Louise Welch wants the community to talk about death.
DYING WISH: Palliative care specialist Louise Welch wants the community to talk about death. Warren Lynam

She said more than 1000 patients had needed her department's specialised care in the past year.

"There are a lot of patients who need and have palliation, but don't necessarily come under our umbrella so the 1000 that we see are probably the tip of the iceberg," Dr Welch said.

Care includes fulfilling patients' wishes for their place of death, supporting families during bereavement and good symptom control.

Dr Welch said it was important for patients to understand help was available and plan how they wanted their care to proceed.

"They then feel that they own their disease," she said.

"It's not taking them over - they are owning it."

Ms Newey agreed.

"The more people can prepare for their death and not have fear, that's the most wonderful thing." she said.


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