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Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Nov 23, 2018 10:35 am

Wednesday morning at 3:00am I received a call from Whatcom Hospice House to tell me that Yvette had passed away peacefully a few minutes before. As I drove down (safely so you know) I began making the phone calls to let friends and family members know.

A close friend Lenore and I spent time with her and prepared her for transfer to the crematorium.  Her brother Ed arrived from Bremerton and we spent time saying good-bye and reminiscing about the joy we had shared. Hospice House has a beautiful ceremony they call the leaving ceremony. Staff and family members gather as the gurney is taken to the mortuary van. She was covered with the beautiful quilt that she had been under for the last few days. Covered with hearts it seemed to signify the love that she had been wrapped in by the prayers of family and friends. Topping the quilt I placed three red roses signifying the love, the joy and the beauty she brought to my life. As she paused for a moment they rang a simple chime bell with crystal clarity three times. Once for birth, once for life and once for death. After allowing Ed and I to thank the staff for all the blessings that we had received, she was wheeled away through the doors that she had entered a few days before.

Simple. Beautiful. And as she wanted it.

The blessings. Where do I began? The many friends and family that stopped in to comfort us and be with us. Many of you got her gracious smile and thanks. The dogs that visited - Tyler and Tavis. The Threshold singers who sang both the night that we arrived and Monday night. Gentle soothing music that eased our time. The harpist who soothed Yvette in her final hours. That we even landed in Hospice House. It wasn't our first choice but within hours of arriving we saw God's hand in our choice and knew we were in the right place. Each day there seemed to be unexpected blessings. Nurses and staff that provided comfort with grace and heart. Yvette was so pleased with them all. And the hearts quilt was presented to me - unusual as normally they stay with the hospice - as we left. Another blessing.
Many of you know that Sunday was our twelfth anniversary. Though Yvette had planned for us to do renewal of our vows that wasn't to be. We spent the day looking at pictures and reminiscing. Well I spent the day looking and telling Yvette what I was seeing. Though she was largely unresponsive by then, the occasional soft smile let me know she was hearing me and sharing those memories. I found a copy of our service and read our vows to her reminding her that though death would soon part us we would be together in heaven soon enough.

As one of her dear friends said, "There is a joyful reunion going on in Heaven. You just know it. But before she let it start Yvette held up her hand 'Just  minute Lord before we get started I have a couple of requests. Lord I want you to look after my husband. And Lord I have grieving family members and I want you to comfort them too. And my friends too Lord keep them close and safe. And NOW let's get this party started.'" That mental picture has been a great comfort to me. It is so Yvette.

As I have told many  of you Psalm 48 wouldn't leave me this week. I sang it to myself and to Yvette many times. A song celebrating  the Israelites triumphal ascension to Jerusalem, it seemed to capture the joy of going to heaven. Here is my rendition of it.

Great is the Lord
Go in peace Yvette.

Many of you have been following my journey with my wife's pancreatic cancer. I decided to start this thread to provide a place for some reflections for the process that we went through. When the grief has subsided I will reflect on pancreatic cancer, palliative care and hospice. My hope is that it will be useful for others who are coming to this awful cancer. 


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Brighty on Nov 23, 2018 10:40 am

WestCoastSailor‍  Angus. . My heart hurts so much for you.    I'm so truly sorry you are going through  this.   Keep reaching out to us for support.      

Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Nov 23, 2018 11:45 am


I'm so sorry to hear about Yvette's passing. What a beautiful ceremony they had at the hospice. 

Your deep love for Yvette shines through in your post. 

Sending hugs and strength. 


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by ACH2015 on Nov 23, 2018 3:25 pm

Angus, I just read about Yvette's passing away.

I am sorry for your loss. The service you describe provided by the Hospice sounds very personal and of great comfort to you and your family.

I know the peace that comes with a hospice setting. My father passed in hospice two years ago. Very personal and respectful.

Take care of you at this time. Share with us on the site, your family and friends.

ACH2015 - Andy.

Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Lianne_adminCCS on Nov 27, 2018 1:26 pm

I am so very sorry for the loss of your Yvette. While death is never easy, her last few days in hospice, the harpist and the leaving ceremony, sound so beautiful and peaceful.  Your love for her was evident in your writings here. Thank you for trusting us with Yvette's story and her passing.

Keeping you in my thoughts in the days and weeks ahead


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Nov 27, 2018 11:05 pm

I had reason today to reflect on palliative care in another context and thought it might be timely to make my comments here.

The common perception of palliative care is that is about managing death. It is not.

The best definition I have heard is that palliative care is about symptom management. As such it is appropriate to engage with palliative care early in the treatment process to manage symptoms.

I have used the example a couple of times and it seems to hold up. In the hospital Yvette was having her pain managed by morphine. It left her confused and sleepy. Several times nurses and doctors made the comment that her liver didn't seem to be metabolizing the morphine so it was accumulating in her system. But nobody did anything about it. When we got to hospice they dropped the morphine, moved to fentanyl and haldol - and I had my wife back.

There was a palliative team including not only a palliative doctor but pharmacist, nurse and social worker that provided excellent information and moved quickly to manage symptoms as they arose. In hindsight this was a group that could have been brought into the process much sooner. Our fear of admitting that it would be managing dying slowed that process down.


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Lianne_adminCCS on Nov 28, 2018 1:40 pm

Thank you for bringing up a very important topic amidst everything you are going through. There indeed are many misconceptions about what palliative care is.
I am including this info from the World Health Organization that I think sums it up quite nicely and should shed some light on this for many people who may think it is only applicable in the very end days.

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual. Palliative care:

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Dec 14, 2018 8:41 am

Angus WestCoastSailor‍ I am so sorry to read of your wife’s passing, and to learn that I missed this entire thread until now. 

It is so heartening to see the grace with which so many people handle this stage of life. When it is my time, at whatever age that is, I hope to be able to have the peace in my heart and the grace to do it as well as Yvette and you have.

Your post leaves me with a belief that she will comfort you from above in the months and years ahead. Deep condolences.

Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by thecatsmeow on Dec 14, 2018 9:36 am

I feel blessed reading about your wife's passing and your journey with her. Both of you were able to capture her beauty and your love for each other. It is inspirational. 
Thank you for embracing death and showing us that we do not have to be fearful.  It was great to hear you sing too!

Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by WestCoastSailor on Dec 14, 2018 10:23 am

Cynthia Mac‍  and thecatsmeow‍ 

Thank you for your kind words. The words come on a morning when I'm feeling a little fragile and so the tears came easily.


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Lacey_adminCCS on Dec 14, 2018 11:02 am

Virtual hugs to you WestCoastSailor‍.


Re: Heavy Heart - Death from pancreatic cancer

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Dec 14, 2018 6:50 pm

WestCoastSailor‍  - backatcha, big guy! Reading your post brought a tear or two to my eyes! I should maybe pick a different time of day to read the forum — it’s bad form to show up at meetings with puffy eyes! 

Truthfully, though, it’s good to have the angels appear when you need them, eh.

And, I’ll be right behind Lacey_adminCCS‍ in the hug lineup!