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Coach's Story

For many of us, some of those who come into our lives make an impression that never leaves. The coach was one of those. He touched the life of every staff member who cared for him, and before he became ill, he touched the lives of so many more...

A photo of a smiling football coach.

Like many other patients we care for, the coach's illness snuck right up on him. It was so unexpected that it really didn't seem to be happening, and it took him a long time to accept it.

He was a well-known and well-loved football coach at the local high school when cancer blindsided him. He was known for his ever-present good nature and broad smile; nothing could take that away, not even the cancer.

When he first came to us in the Acute Care Unit, no one really knew what was happening; not the patient, the staff, or even the physician. The coach had just suddenly become very ill with the uninvited nausea and vomiting. He couldn't keep anything down if he tried to eat - and he loved to eat! He was with us in that corner room for weeks on end. I was the unlucky one called to place an NG tube into his distended belly to give him some relief. This is never a pleasant experience for the patient, and it was extremely difficult to do, knowing that I was causing discomfort to this gem of a man. But once we were successful, he was much more comfortable. But still, we waited for answers...

The coach refused visitors except for his immediate family because of the uncertainty of what was happening to him, and he didn't wish to be seen in such a vulnerable state. It wasn't until a long series of diagnostic tests, uncomfortable procedures, and so many blood draws that he looked the other way when the phlebotomist entered the room that there was finally an answer. An oncologist was called in, and the reality of his grim diagnosis had been determined. No plans for treatment were made, it would have been futile because the cancer was too advanced. Accepting his fate at this point was unavoidable. Once he did, he gave the "ok" for the kids he coached to visit, and they began flooding in. Always warm and welcoming, he remained in that corner room until he quietly passed one night.

I was once told never to tell a patient that everything is going to be alright because, the truth is, we don't know that for certain. All we can really do is assure them every step of the way that we are there for them. We are there to help manage the symptoms and provide comfort and answers as needed. We are there to advocate for them and reach out to other resources as they may benefit them. Being present is the greatest contribution we can make.

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Published by Jennifer Tipton / This post may contain affiliate links.


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