Brian Thompson calls Aug. 29, 2013, his new birthday. That was the day when the Navy veteran learned he had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. He was 43.
He told the doctors to give him everything he could handle. “All of them were saying, ‘Hey, how you’re going to beat this is up here’,” Thompson said, pointing to his head. “They said, ‘We could give you all the medicine that technology provides, but you have to have a positive mindset.’”
Soon after his new birthday, Thompson was referred to Dr. Eric Bush who was at that time medical director for Frederick Memorial Pain and Palliative Care and Hospice of Frederick County. “I walked into his office, and of course I was a mess. Because I thought, ‘Am I going to live a month? Am I going to live six months?’ I really didn’t know.”
He went to him for pain management, and that was important. But most importantly, Bush put him and his whole family at ease. “The main thing for me is he helped me up here, in my mind,” Thompson said.
Eight years later, he is still seeing Bush, but in the Hussman Supportive Care Center on the John & Cathy Belcher Campus in Pasadena, as Bush is now the chief medical officer for the nonprofit Hospice of the Chesapeake. Thompson shared his story because he wants people to be aware of how supportive care is helping him live not only a longer life, but a quality life.
Supportive care fills a much-needed gap between the treatment someone receives when first diagnosed with a life-limiting disease and the moment when a family chooses hospice care. From the beginning the team serves as advocates for patients as they determine the right care for their disease. When it’s time to discuss end-of-life care, supportive care patients are prepared, making the transition less stressful and on their own terms.
The power of supportive care is precisely why John and Terri Hussman donated a gift through the Hussman Foundation to fund a multi-year plan to expand the reach of the nonprofit’s Chesapeake Supportive Care program. The Hussmans have had their own experiences of not getting support for an ailing loved one and then other experiences of a family member who did get supportive care early. Terri said the contrast in the experiences is remarkable.
Their donation is already at work as Hospice of the Chesapeake recently opened a second supportive care outpatient center in Waldorf. The new Hussman Supportive Care Center already has a team in place to care for people like Thompson who are living with complex and chronic health conditions.
The Hussmans hope that with this gift, more people will be able to get that comfort, support and holistic approach. They want patients to feel comfortable sharing with their care teams their goals for their illness with knowledge and confidence that it will be honored.
John referred to the idea that listening to the suffering of the world is how to bring it relief. A great part of supportive care is listening. With that in mind, the gift was in line with the vision of their family’s commitment to the community. “The mission with the Hussman Foundation has always been to alleviate suffering,” he said.
Elyzabeth Marcussen is the Senior Communications Specialist for Hospice of the Chesapeake. She can be reached at [email protected].
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