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A Family's Love

November 16, 2012 9:27 a.m.

A family caretaker her entire life, Carole Pangburn came to rely on her family to care for her during her final months. Through the help of Lincolnland Hospice, they were able to provide better care, create great memories and have closure. After two years of battling liver cancer, Carole died Oct. 1.

In July 2010, Carole underwent an operation at Barnes Jewish Hospital to remove a baseball-sized tumor from her liver. She was diagnosed with stage-three liver cancer, but the margins around the tumor looked clear of cancer. Sadly, doctors later found that the cancer had spread to the back hipbone and lung. After a trip to MD Anderson in Houston, doctors found one FDA-approved treatment that targeted the cancer. The expensive treatment made her incredibly ill, and, after 10 days, Carole decided the treatment was robbing her of quality of life and she ended the treatment.

Carole’s daughter, Teresa Naylor, who worked for Lincolnland Homecare and Hospice more than a dozen years ago, knew the hospice goal was to provide palliative care so people didn’t suffer at end of life. “I trusted them and understood the fantastic benefit hospice care could provide for my mom. They are the ears and eyes of the doctor and they know what works for their patients. I knew it would make a huge difference in my mom’s life.”

Teresa explained that her mother’s hospice nurse, Kay Wheeler, offered education and reassurance to help them understand how this disease was going to impact the person they loved and cared about.

Carole’s family—Charlie, her husband of 25 years, cared for her lovingly and tirelessly day and night to ensure she received the care she needed and deserved; Rita Grube, her sister, moved from Valparaiso, Ind., to Mattoon to help Carole and Charlie; and her other daughter, Janice Kempe of Danville, all worked together to make sure Carole was cared for in the same way she cared for so many others.

Rita explained that as the younger of the two sisters, Carole spent a lifetime taking care of her as well as others; first as a young child growing up, and then throughout her life when her first husband died in a car accident, and again, when her second husband died of cancer. She also cared for community members at their end-of-life. “My sister was always here for me, and now it was my turn to take care of her,” Rita said.

“Kay was amazing and Carole totally trusted her,” Rita said. “She had a way of calming Carole down when she was troubled, and when Carole’s disease affected her mind, Kay reminded me to remember the old Carole. She let us know what to expect. It seemed like Carole was Kay’s only patient, but we knew that wasn’t true.”

Teresa helped manage her mother’s care from her home in Atlanta, relying on Kay to keep her informed of the disease process and answer her many questions. Sometimes it was just to talk.

“There are no do-overs in life,” Teresa said. That’s why it was so important for her to spend as much time as possible with her mother in her final months. “I didn’t want any regrets. I came home (from Atlanta) about 10 weeks prior to her passing, and we went to the movies, and did some shopping. Really just did a lot of talking. Mom was in some discomfort, but others didn’t know that because she’s a fighter, a real scraper. Intellectually, I knew she was dying, but I couldn’t accept it in my heart.”

Rita explained that Carole asked God and her physician, Dr. Mikel, to keep her out of pain and to make the end come quickly. “God granted her the wish,” Rita said.

“I don’t know what we would have done without Kay. She was a big help and went out of her way to be good to us,” Charlie said. “She was more than a nurse, she was a part of our family.”

“My mom was at peace with the disease and was ready to go, but her body was still very strong,” Teresa said. “When I left to return to Atlanta, it was so difficult because I knew that when I came home again, she wouldn’t know me. I called Kay often and she kept me involved in my mom’s care. Kay’s day just never ended. She reassured me once by saying, ‘I love her too. We’re going to take care of her.’”

“I know her body was just a vessel for her soul,” Teresa said. Kay told me when mom died that ‘I’m rejoicing because she’s in heaven with the angels.’ That gave me a great sense of comfort.”

Carole’s family was so grateful for the care she received that they made a $1,000 donation to Lincolnland Hospice so others in need could receive the care as well. The family also asked that memorials go to both Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center and Lincolnland Hospice. Lincolnland Hospice provides end-of-life care to people in a 20-county area, including care for people without means, community bereavement and the Grant-a-Wish program.

For more information about Lincolnland Hospice, please call 1-800-454-4055.