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Steven A. Beauchamp: Hospice helps patients celebrate their lives

I can’t begin to tell you how many people look at me and say that I look remarkably well for a person going through my health issues. I guess that when you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, most of us expect the very worst.

However, I learned in 1995 that people in my condition come in all kinds of various forms. As a TV photojournalist, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Hospice Center in Cheektowaga. Like so many of my friends, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw.

The people I assumed were staff members were actually patients. There were no black clouds hanging anywhere but rather, there was joy and hope for the future. No matter how long that future consisted of. Lots of laughter and smiles. An upbeat place that offered so very much to those looking to take full advantage of every day.

So when I was recently diagnosed with a stage four metastatic cancer, I turned to the only venue I believed could help me. One that I could trust to take care of me and, more importantly, my loved ones. I turned to Hospice.

Hospice provides the best palliative care you can ever ask for. Its mission is to provide each patient with nothing but comfort and reassurance through the most difficult time anyone could ever imagine. Hospice is also there to help your family and friends, too. The care provided is immeasurable.

Doctors and nurses come to you. There is no need to get out of bed on a cold day and head to the emergency room. If you need prescriptions or other forms of help, they are there before you know it. They laugh with you and never come in feeling sorry for you.

In time, you get to know a lot about their families and they do the same with yours. Hospice caregivers can quickly turn into the best friends you have ever had.

You or a family member can call them 24 hours a day and they are always there for you. No matter what the issue is, they provide you with care unlike any other I have ever witnessed.

Recently I experienced an episode that left me unable to tend for myself, leaving my adult children with the responsibility of taking care of me. One phone call and help arrived almost immediately. The relief that provides is difficult to describe.

My nurse Isabel is one of my closest friends these days. I know all about her kids and, more importantly, her grandkids. She has never entered or exited my home without a hug and words of great encouragement. She cares deeply and it shows.

My doctor is a gentleman who goes by his first name and will listen to all of my success stories as well as my complaints about pain.

Melissa is the social worker on my team and I feel like I was there when her 2-year-old celebrated Easter this year.

My life will not last nearly as long as I had once hoped. Hospice is going to make sure, though, that every day I have left is one to celebrate. I suppose the best way of putting it is that these people aren’t preparing me to die; they are preparing me to live!