An author writes about dying – with hospice nearby
When Rea Bochner received a call from her mother, Deborah Buckler, nine years ago saying she had terminal cancer, she put pen to paper and chronicled her mother’s journey over the subsequent six weeks until she died.
Eight years later, she turned the notes into a memoir about her family, her own challenges and her relationship with her mother, entitled The Cape House. The book also covers the importance of the end-of-life care her mother received from Cape Cod Healthcare VNA Hospice.
“With hospice, it didn’t feel like we were trying to figure this out all by ourselves,” said Bochner. “They are like the sherpas who lead you through the mountains; they were our touchstone throughout the entire process and they were amazing.”
Part of the reason Bochner decided to write the book was to demystify the process for others.
“I really had no experience with death; what it is, what it looks like. It’s not scary. While the process gets very real, very fast, once it happens, the moment itself is very normal and peaceful.
Her mother had been diagnosed with bladder cancer a year before and she was being treated at a hospital in New York, explained Bochner.
“She basically said ‘they tried everything and it isn’t working.’ The cancer was unexpected and they caught it a little too late, unfortunately.”
Buckler had been through two surgeries during that time, one on her shoulder because the cancer had spread, and a kidney surgery. She also endured a round of chemotherapy.
Bochner and her husband, Joshua, who divide their time between New Jersey and Cape Cod, were living at the family’s house in Dennis at the time and her mother decided she wanted to spend her final days there.
Hospice Steps In
Two days after her parents came to the Cape, Buckler started on the palliative program in their home and a short time later transitioned to hospice care with the same team of VNA nurses, social worker and home health aides.
“They walked us through her medicine regimen, they made a schedule and taught us how to set up the medications,” said Bochner. “One of the nurses taught me how to clean her port (a catheter in a large vein in the chest to administer medications such as chemotherapy) and how to insert and remove the needle.”
At one point, she developed a fever and the family took her to the emergency department at Cape Cod Hospital. She was evaluated by Hendrik Ecker, MD, an emergency room physician.
“He was just the warmest, most wonderful man,” said Bochner. “He remembered her from another ER visit around Christmas. It was a totally different paradigm than it was in New York. I truly appreciated how warm he was with her.”
Buckler was transitioned to the hospice program as she began to decline.
“Debra Arzonico, RN, and Margaret Beaudry, RN, were her nurses,” said Bochner. “Not only did they help my mother, they took time to explain what was going on, told us what to expect and gave us a plan of action.
“There were visits when the nurse would bypass my mother and come straight to us and find out how we were doing before going in to see my mother. And I know my father really appreciated that.”
Bochner’s siblings, Aaron, Shira, and Josh, all moved into the house a month after their mother’s arrival. They helped with the medications, doing errands, visiting with their mother and playing music.
“She just liked having all of us around,” said Bochner.
“She didn’t really have an appetite,, but one night she woke up and asked for French fries and soft serve ice cream from Captain Frosty’s down the street. She just nibbled a little bit but we were all so excited that she asked for it.”
Another night, around 2 a.m., Buckler tried to get up to use the commode by herself, and she fell.
“My father woke us all up to help him get her up and my sister, who is a physical therapist, showed us the correct way to get her back to bed,” said Bochner. “We sat with her for about an hour and we all sang songs from our childhood and even some old rock songs. During that time, she was with us and lucid even though she was medicated.”
Buckler, 55, died in May 2009 surrounded by her family, just six weeks after she learned she was terminal.
With the full resources of Cape Cod Healthcare, VNA Hospice is the highest-rated hospice on the Cape. For more information on Cape Cod Healthcare VNA Hospice, call 800-978-0838 or 508-957-7710. You can also learn more about VNA Hospice here: