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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Take heart: Compassionate care at the end of life

Jay's story:
Nine years ago, my wife lost her battle with cancer. She also endured harsh, unfeeling treatment at work. The week we learned that additional treatment would not prolong her life, she came home in tears due to a nasty comment from a co-worker.

The next day, I accompanied my wife to her office and asked the supervisor for permission to address those co-workers. The supervisor was clueless about what had been going on. I said, "My name is Jay and I’m Jena's husband. I love her with all my heart, but we found out this week she is dying and there is nothing more that can be done.” The silence was deafening. I took my wife's hand, told her I loved her and said if she didn't want to work there anymore, she could come home so I could take care of her. With tears in her eyes, she replied, "Let's go."

By the time we arrived home, our answering machine was full of kind messages from her co-workers. The supervisor came by a week later to see how she was doing and informed us that three employees had been fired for "creating a hostile work environment."

My wife died in my arms six weeks later. She had forgiven them and so have I. To all the survivors out there, take heart. Every day that goes by will give you a little more strength to get through.

Advice to cancer patients facing tough choices: Follow love.

Read another story of another tough choice at the end of life. Jay's letter to Annie's Mailbox appeared in today's Boston Globe.

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