Cancer, Hospice, Decisions – “A Storied Life”

A Storied Life quote

He was ready to make the call.

We weren’t. But it was his decision.

When my father got his diagnosis for incurable lung cancer, he shortly decided to call in hospice.

He didn’t want to suffer needlessly through futile treatments just to prolong a painful existence. So his choice was to stay at home and receive hospice care.

Such was reality. It was a hard season for all of us.

You don’t often read stories like that in novels. But for her debut novel, A Storied Life, Leigh Kramer gives us a story like this. About real life.

Leigh writes about real life as she has experienced it. She was once a hospice social worker. She’s familiar with the world of loss and death that eventually visits every family. She writes with depth and gives us a main character with heart.

The leading lady in her novel is Olivia Frasier, a young professional who is ambivalent about her family of origin and her own life choices as an adult. She’s established herself in a career as the owner of her own art gallery, but you sense early on that it doesn’t satisfy her. She is unsettled.

The story progresses quickly to a dysfunctional family scene. Gram gathers the family to share her life-changing news of being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family doesn’t want to accept it.

But after Gram’s proclamation comes a second curveball. She throws her granddaughter Olivia into a new and unrequested position: Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

As the novel progresses, we walk with Olivia through the ups and downs of hospice and healthcare as she explores this new role, her old role, and a new love interest.

“Fine. What have you always told me? To live a storied life. Am I doing that? What do you think?”

The story isn’t light-hearted, naturally. It reveals the difficult decisions and emotions that accompany the dynamics of a family in life and death situations. But it is satisfying. Through it all we discover how Olivia grows into a greater knowledge of herself, her career, and her relationships.

“Gram’s teaching came to mind. Authentic people told the truth, even when there was no guarantee.”

I enjoyed the story and was impressed at Leigh’s venture into novel writing. I’m not surprised that she did well though; Leigh is a voracious reader, and one often leads to the other. I look forward to future works from Leigh.

“Nothing was set in stone, but it didn’t need to be. I would live this out one step at a time. Part of the adventure of life was not knowing exactly what it held. That’s what kept the story fresh. Each chapter had the potential to break your heart or lift your spirits.”

My father only lived a few short weeks under hospice care. That chapter in his and our lives ended quicker than we expected or wanted.

But because it was on his own terms, we respected him for it. If we’re each so blessed, we, too, will live out our stories, including our death stories, with care and grace. One step at a time.

* * *

Have you had experiences with hospice for yourself or a loved one? Please share in the comments.

You can read more from Leigh on her blog Leigh is also the hostess of the monthly “What I’m Into” linkup, which I thoroughly enjoy participating in at the first of every month.

If you want to win a free signed annotated copy of A Storied Life, head over to Leigh’s Instagram. Giveaway ends June 27.

My thanks to Leigh Kramer
for the review copy of this book


21 thoughts on “Cancer, Hospice, Decisions – “A Storied Life”

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I probably should be looking into hospice, but it’s not going to happen, for three reasons:

    1) No insurance. Not going to give myself some measure of comfort whilst putting Barbara into lifetime debt.

    2) Practicality. We have a lot of very friendly rescued Pit Bulls who would scare the heck out of most hospice workers as the dogs would come running for a slobbery kiss.

    3) No real point. I don’t take pain meds; been there did that, and no more. Not going to spend my last months in a fog. Besides, to write this authentically I’ve got to live it, all the way.

    This is not a path I would recommend; pain as I rite this is beat-my-head-against-a-wall bad, and seeing no respite’s tough. Discouragement would be easy, and despair; it’s a constant proactive process to be positive.

      1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

        Lisa, your words are never inadequate – your clear and bright faith are always an inspiration. It’s an honour to know you.

        When I meet Jesus I will tell Him of your shining, grace filled words and deeds. Yeah, He probably already knows, but I’m gonna bend His ear.

        And when you arrive – a LONG time from now…I will see to it that you’ll get a surprise party that’s going to be the talk of Eternity.

  2. Donna Reidland

    I have worked with families who had loved ones in hospice and the care and help they received was always wonderful. It’s heartwarming to see how God gifts people to love and care for others during such a difficult season. This sounds like a very relatable and real book.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It definitely is a gift, Donna. Not everyone is well-suited to that work, even though all of us will be called upon to do measures of it at various times in our lives. May the Lord be with both the caregivers and those receiving care during those times.

  3. Barbara Harper

    Sounds like this would be helpful in many ways. With my m-i-l, we had to figure out hospice care and power of attorney while in the middle of it. And my m-i-l has been under hospice care for 3 years now – not the usual course of events.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      No, I’d guess that’s not usual.I typically think of hospice for about 6 months. But who can predict such things? I hope your experience with hospice has been a good one. Most of the times it is, but not always. It’s good that you all took care of things earlier rather than later. It makes things easier.

  4. Cheryl

    Oh, Lisa! I am so sorry for your loss. Death is SO hard to deal with, and the grief lingers for so long. This sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing about it and your experience, too. God bless and comfort you always.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Cheryl. Yes, even though it’s been 8 years, I still miss my dad (and my mom…she died 7 months later). I’m thankful for many great memories to sustain us. Yes, this is an excellent book; very realistic.

  5. Barbie

    Just lasts week my mother received a preliminary report of lung cancer. We are waiting a scheduled biopsy. This is another blow as she was diagnosed with early onset dementia last year.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear this, Barbie. 🙁 Praying right now for your mom. And for you, friend. May God strengthen you with all that you need for the days ahead.

  6. Pingback: GOOD MORNING MONDAYS #175 | Darling Downs Diaries

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. I understanding that feeling, Michele. I often feel that way too when I have to turn one down, and then see great reviews about it. It’s usually just a time crunch thing when I have to say no.

  7. floyd samons

    My dad walked into the hospital on January 13th of 2010 and had brain surgery to eliminate his brain cancer the next day… he never walked on his own again. He passed on May 7th. He was in Hospice and waited for me to get there that day before he took his last breath.

    This is our reality… but so is the reality that we will one day see our heroes that taught us how to live and honor our Father.

    I could go on, but suffice to say, we relate, sister.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I had forgotten that our dads died so close together, Floyd. It’s crazy that it’s already been 8 years for both. I’m glad you were able to be with your dad before he took his last breath. On my dad’s last morning, I had just left his house to sleep a little after staying up all night with him. I didn’t realize he was so close to dying or I wouldn’t have left at all. I’d hardly been in bed at all at home before my brother called and said I needed to return. But it was too late by the time I got there.

      I appreciate your reminder that we will see our heroes of faith again one day. I’m forever and ever grateful for that truth!

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