The editor:

As a cancer caregiver, I've experienced firsthand how the mental and physical side effects of treatment can take a toll on one's quality of life.

As health professionals focus on the cancer treatment itself, comfort and concerns such as pain, nausea, shortness of breath and anxiety are oftentimes not aggressively addressed.

That's where palliative care can help a growing field of specialized medical care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families by focusing on symptoms of treatment for a serious disease such as cancer.

Many people connect the two words palliative care with other words such as "the end, it's over, or that's all, folks." I realize this because at one time, I was in that very position. Early in my wife's battle with cancer we were approached about palliative care. Those very phrases were the ones we had. As a result, she suffered many of those concerns mentioned earlier. Now I deal with many of the thoughts of how things may have been better if we had used the services of the palliative care teams early on in her treatment. Those questions will never be answered.

I urge everyone to contact their Representative and Senators in Washington to support a bill currently pending in Congress that improves cancer patients' quality of life through educating patients about palliative care, enhancing training for health care providers and funding more comprehensive research on the benefits of palliative care.

Our legislators must take this opportunity to expand access to palliative care so patients and their families can have that extra layer of support when they need it most.

Roger D. Cline, Sr.

Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN)

Olive Hill

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