GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - November is National Hospice Palliative Care Month. It's a service more and more terminally ill patients and their families are choosing; to spend their final days at home rather than in the hospital.
Gautier resident Robert Strother, 54, recently turned to hospice care. He has been battling cancer on and off for 14 years. During that time he has been told at least three different times by his doctors that he had less than a few years to live. But Strother keeps defying the odds and says giving up is not in his vocabulary.
"I still fight to live. Life is precious. We only get one go around, so I might as well get all I can out of it," Strother said.
An avid outdoorsman, Strother always led an active life. He married his wife, Keri, eleven years ago, just three years after being diagnosed with rectal cancer. He thought he cleared that hurdle, but two more surgeries and high doses of radiation took their toll over the years, and the cancer returned.
"I shouldn't be alive now, but I am. I attribute that to God. And I'm always happy even though I don't feel good, so my attitude helps, I guess."
Now, during what he believes are his final days, he's thankful to be able to be cared for at home rather than in the hospital.
"Thanks to Hospice of Light I'm able to stay home with my wife and our two dogs, and I couldn't be more grateful for that," Strother said.
Hospice nurses visit him every day. Registered Nurse Christy Myers is the clinical liaison for Singing River Health System's Hospice of Light.
"The registered nurse comes daily to take vital signs, do a head to toe assessment, medications, and to find out how they're eating. We also help with bathing and other daily tasks," Myers explained.
Strother is no longer able to walk or stand, but somehow manages to stay positive. Hospice helps alleviate the physical and emotional burdens.
"They've brought joy into my life. I look forward to them showing up every day," Strother said.
For Myers, the feeling is mutual.
"Our patients and our caregivers become pretty attached," Myers said.
Strother has a hard time holding back his tears when talking about what the hospice workers mean to him.
"It's about to make me cry. I've really bonded with all of them. They help me mentally and physically," Strother said.
He also has high praise for his wife.
"I couldn't ask for a better wife. She has stuck with me through all of this."
And that makes his time at home even more precious.
"I'm dying, basically. I don't know how much longer I have. But to be able to stay here is a complete Godsend."
To learn more about Singing River Health System's Hospice of Light, including a list of services offered and details on when hospice care is appropriate, visit: http://www.singingriverhealthsystem.com/services/hospice/