Cancer is a thief. It robs people of their livelihood, their bodies, their independence, and their dignity. It creeps in and relentlessly takes people away. People we love.
When my Dad got sick it all happened pretty fast. I mean, he didn’t feel well for a long time and by the time any proper testing was done he was already on death row.
“Stage four cancer Mr. Peever, it has spread to your lungs, bones, and liver.”
Here are a few things I wish I had known:
#1 – Advocate for yourself
If you are not feeling well and in pain somewhere in your body, go see your doctor. When you are there insist that they take some blood and look for anything that would suggest cancer. It really should be a no-brainer these days when it seems like most people either have cancer, don’t know they have cancer, or don’t have cancer yet. Google says 40% of the population has had a taste.
My Dad was in pain for a long time. Lower back, neck pain, increasing fatigue. He was getting up there in age and was also a long-time smoker. He had gone to the doctor many times in the last couple of years before he passed. He was admitted to the hospital for 2 weeks with pneumonia in 2019 and never really recovered. I assume they looked at his lungs during that visit but never reported any signs of cancer.
I am sure he saw his doctor 10 more times for various pains in the year and a half after that. The stabbing pain in his side and lack of breath was treated with steroid puffers and inflammatory creams. Just a month or two before he passed the pain was intensified again and during this visit to his doctor, he was diagnosed with Shingles. The kind you can’t see on the outside but under the skin Shingles. He was given large blue pills to take every day and the grapefruit-sized tumor continued to grow, and be a pain in his side. Perhaps it was only the size of an orange at that time like the one they found in his other lung at stage four. My Dad was a heavy smoker for most of his life. His doctor talked to him many times “about the smoking” but never looked for cancer on his visits? Just seems odd to me.
Ask your doctor to take blood and look for anything that might indicate cancer might be present. Catch it early and act.
#2 – Nurse Navigators (204) 784-0237
Once Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and released from the hospital, it was hard for us to keep his information straight. Due to Covid, we weren’t able to visit so if we needed to know something we would have to call Dad or try to get through to his nurse at the hospital for more detailed information. Once he was released we didn’t know who to talk to. Once you leave the hospital you are no longer in their care. We weren’t sure who to contact for things like oxygen tanks, home assistance, and treatment appointments. We didn’t know who to call for what!
Al told me about “Nurse Navigators” so I gave them a call and talked to someone there who immediately took all of his information, contacted Dad, and took on all things related to his care. Basically from that point on we could call them any time there was a breakdown of communication or we weren’t sure about something. They were a huge help throughout this process in the realm of “what do we do now?”.
#3 – Treatments (Quality VS Quantity)
Once my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, doctors told him that without treatment he had about 6 months to live. Maybe a little longer with treatment. It was difficult to talk about this as a family because everyone was dealing with their own emotions. Selfishly we all agreed on quantity because not accepting treatment just seemed like giving up. But Dad still had his mobility at this time and there was a good chance that treatments could make him sicker much sooner. He loved to get out in the car and visit my sister, his people, his dogs. He also feared that rejecting treatment meant that Cancer Care would no longer be there for him, and in a way he was right. He decided that he would do the radiation they suggested in hopes that it would shrink the tumors in his lungs and help with his daily stamina and getting around. He opted out of the chemotherapy that followed and his file was transferred from Cancer Care to Palliative Care.
I will talk more about Palliative Care moving forward but the most important takeaway from treatments is to make sure the decision is ultimately made by the patient. My Dad would do anything for us, even suffer longer to save us the pain of losing him. More life isn’t worth living if the quality of life is the compromise.
#4 – MAID (204) 926-1380
Medical Assistance In Dying – I don’t think a lot of people know about this because doctors aren’t really allowed to talk about it as an option. Doctors are under oath to do everything they can to keep you alive for as long as possible, even if you would rather be dead.
Medical assistance in dying occurs when an authorized doctor or nurse practitioner provides or administers medication that intentionally brings about a patient’s death, at that patient’s request. This procedure is only available to eligible individuals.
For Dad, this was just a tool in his toolbox. When/if it got to the point where the suffering was unbearable he could play this card. He never had to use it but at least not dying a slow painful death was an option he had. I am sure this could be considered controversial but cancer is merciless. There is no need to prolong suffering, it’s a choice now.
#5 – Pallitative Care
I can’t say enough good about Palliative care. We were given a contact after Dad finished his last bout of radiation and they did everything toward making him as comfortable at home as possible. They paid for and managed all of Dad’s prescriptions while he was under their umbrella. We were to contact them for anything Dad needed and a nurse came out twice a week for home visits.
Dad wanted to be at home for as long as he physically could. If there was an emergency we were to call them and they would send someone out to assess the situation. If he needed to go to the hospital it went through them which was good to know. I had called a couple of when he had a rough day and we weren’t sure if we should take him in or not and they were very responsive. They were on call 24 hours a day if we needed them.
One of the first things they ask for when setting up Dad’s file was “who do you have to pick him up if he passes at home?”. You are required to make those arrangements right away so that there is a plan in place. This brings me to…
#6 – Cremation (204) 808-4490
We had to have a plan in place as a part of the palliative care health directive. We had to make arrangements for someone to be on call to pick up my Dad in the event that he passed at home. Initially, I just started looking online for places that were close and found that very few websites had pricing on them. When I called everyone I talked to wanted me to “come in and have a sit down” to talk about arrangements, and receptacles, etc. I just needed someone on the books to pick him up, do the cremation, and call me to pick him up. That’s it. When I pushed over the phone for pricing it was starting at $5000, which seemed a little steep to me. I finally found Alterna online and what appealed to me was that they were the only place I could find that had transparent pricing right on their website.
Our $1395 Direct Cremation package includes everything you need except an urn; And you don’t even need to buy one from us. We do have very affordable, quality urns available, but you can also choose to have your loved one’s remains returned in a basic, dignified container provided by Alterna at no additional charge.
We were very happy with everything they provided and the price was exactly as stated. They took care of all the paperwork, made sure Mom’s forms were all filled out for CPP and PPE and down with OPP, and provided a few copies of the death. certificate in case we needed a few extra. We also opted for them to submit the Obituary and that was expensive but I don’t think they added anything other than their cost.
#7 – Probating the Will
We found ourselves in a very unique position with my Dad’s new car lease. He has been leasing a Honda CRV for the last 15 years or so and his new lease was only about 6 months old when he passed. I called the girl he always dealt with there and she knew who I was right away and gave me her condolences. I expected that I could just bring the car back there and they would take care of it but it wasn’t that simple. She told me it was a Honda Canada issue and gave me a number to call. I really just wanted to get the car back to the dealership. In short, HC told me that we were responsible for what was still owed on the remainder of the lease even though my mom’s name wasn’t anywhere on the lease. Our options were to sell the car, have someone take over the lease, or take over the payments ourselves. None of which we were willing to do I told the nice lady on the phone. She asked me for a copy of the death certificate (which I sent), and a copy of the will (which is none of their business). I called a second time to speak to someone else, maybe they didn’t understand the circumstances but they made it crystal clear we would be responsible or it would come out of his estate.
His estate? I wasn’t really sure how that all worked but when I asked our lawyer he said to think of it as anything my Dad would have had that my mom didn’t already have access to. Like if there was a cottage in his name that he had left to her in his will or in this case a car that she was no part of. If there were some assets to be gained by “probating” or accessing the will then you don’t get to pick and choose which ones you want. You couldn’t just accept the cottage, you would need to accept the car lease too as a part of his “estate”. So because my Mom is still alive and well, and there are no assets she doesn’t have access to there is no reason to access the will. Meaning there is no estate.
I called back HC a third time and asked again “where can I drop off the car” and again they told me to try and get someone to lease it, or sell it if I don’t want to take on the payment. By this time we had already made a stop payment on the car. I told them very clear that it was my full intention to return this vehicle and just need to know where to bring it? Again I got some pushback. Next, I asked if the call was being recorded and I told them again it was my full intention to return this car. Finally, she told me to bring the car back to the dealership. I was to call them and make arrangements and let HC know when it was done. For ass-covering I had drafted up a receipt that I had them sign on its return and I took pictures and video of the car on the lot.
Not long after dropping off the car Mom got a letter in the mail addressed to “the estate of Brian Peever”. It was a bill for the cost of the car. Not just what was remaining on the lease, the cost of the car along with some handling fees and storage now that the car was on their lot. $45,000 needed to be paid in a month’s time. Our lawyer said not to worry, there is no estate. Just last week we received another letter this time to the estate of Brian Peever letting us know that the car was sold and that we need to pay the difference of $4500 or they would be contacting a 3rd party collections agency.
I wish I had known how shitty the dealerships could be when something like this happens. My Dad was a loyal customer for 15+ years and now instead of trying to be empathetic, Honda Canada is sending a collection agency to shake down his estate after already re-selling the car for who knows how much? Used cars are in HUGE demand right now! Makes me sick to my stomach.
Good luck with that Honda Canada. Kick rocks.