Janice Swank

Janice discusses her husband’s experience with Home-based Palliative Care and why she has now elected to receive it herself.

My name is Janice Swank. I’m from England originally. I was born in 1944, so I’m a war baby. I came to the United States in January of 1970. I do have somewhat of a medical background in that my mum was a district midwife in England for over thirty years. And she delivered over 3,000 babies because home deliveries were the thing at that time.

I always wanted to be a nurse like my mum. But I started working a job when I was 16, you know like a regular job. I delivered medicines, like from a drugstore. I would have to wash the medicine bottles. And I would deliver the medicine to the patients’ homes. Later, I was in nursing school for two years in England. Met my husband in Germany and I came over here. So I never finished my training in England.

When my husband’s health deteriorated, I wasn’t sure how to find some help with him because I was very much his caretaker. I knew that he had a lot of health issues.  I was just seeking some help, some sort of help, somebody to turn to that maybe I could find some sort of support from somewhere. I called hospice. Not that my husband was quite ready for hospice, as I’d said he had many health issues. But then they told us–my husband and me–about palliative care. I hadn’t actually realized that that was another alternative to hospice.  Because my mum was a midwife, I think that I had an even better understanding of home visits, home care. Whether it’s having a baby or where I was concerned when I was seeking help for my husband and for myself, the fact that being in one’s home makes such a big difference.

From the beginning when my husband was put into palliative care, it made a big difference to me. Because I knew that in some way I would get support for my husband and that was very important to me. Not only do they look at the health issues involved but they also look at one’s background. They’re willing to sit and listen to stories about one’s life.

It was during one of the palliative care visits with my husband that the palliative care team found out about my health issues. The fact that I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I had the surgery and I was on chemo for quite a while. And then everything looked like things were going well, and probably about 6 months later I was told I had cancer again, it had re-developed. And so I was put on palliative care too.

I would just like to emphasize how important–how much I appreciate palliative care.  It’s just the feeling that there’s somebody there that I can call at anytime, there’s somebody there 24 hours a day. If I have a concern of some kind, they’re there to answer my questions. They come with a cheerful face, I can cry and not feel guilty about crying, opening up about what may be concerning me at the time.  They’re there to help me. And if more people knew about palliative care, I think it would make such a difference to people who have issues similar to mine.