Creating Stories of Hope

Stories of Hope

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time giving information to cancer patients and their caregivers. I started a few months ago when my aunt’s breast cancer returned after a brief remission. I wanted to help her and her young daughters.

Recently I was asked to help more people by starting this blog for mesothelioma patients and their caregivers.  I haven’t thought about cancer this much since my mom battled stomach cancer a few years ago.

It wasn’t easy then, and it’s not easy now.

Knowing what information to share isn’t the hard part.  Between my own experiences and the Peterson Firm’s resources, I have a lot of information to share.  So why have I written and discarded so many blog entries before writing this one? I didn’t want you to know that my family’s own story had a sad ending.

Five years ago, I sat by mom’s side and watched her die.

My aunt also died a couple of weeks ago.  I didn’t see her in the end because I stayed away from my family for the same reason I initially didn’t want to tell you that my mom died:  I feared that no matter how useful my information was, the fact that it came from me — a caregiver whose loved one had died — would just sadden you and take away your hope.

In reality, though, our cancer story was full of hope.  It has taken a lot of soul searching to remember that how our story ended isn’t as important as what happened after it began.

Soon after my mom was diagnosed, she started getting her affairs in order.  She didn’t know how the story would end 18 months later, but she knew she wanted to be as comfortable as possible and spend whatever time she had left with her loved ones.   We may not have realized it at the moment, but that decision would help her enjoy more time with us instead of worrying about what would happen to us after she was gone.

It was difficult to talk about how we would pay medical bills, about the type of care she wanted and even about her final wishes, but we supported her and had the difficult conversations early.

It gave her peace of mind that she would need after surgery, during radiation and chemotherapy, and when we ran out of medical options.  As I look back, I realize that every moment we spent on those details bought us days of simply holding her hand, looking into her eyes and, yes, even laughing and smiling with her.

If you are reading this, you or a loved one likely received a diagnosis that left you with little hope. Although I am a caregiver whose loved one died, I can honestly say there is hope.  No matter how your own story begins and ends, there is hope that you can have some peace of mind during the days in between.

Whenever I wonder if I could have done more for my mother, I remember what she told me the night before she died.  She had been very quiet that day, but that night she made a point to tell me that we had made her comfortable.  She said this despite many months of physical suffering. That was our last conversation.

We hope that this blog will be the start of many new conversations. We will offer legal information and lots of other resources to help with your general wellness and peace of mind. We also hope that these conversations will help you and your loved ones live as comfortable as possible in the days ahead.


Karen Marshall has more than 17 years of legal experience and is an attorney with The Peterson Firm. She has been contributing to The Mesothelioma Center since 2011 and writes about asbestos-related legal issues and blogs for Asbestos.com.

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