Kaye Carlton, 67, is full of life. She lives in Suwanee with her daughter’s family and does all the normal things a vivacious woman does. She attends church and enjoys lunch with friends. She spends time with her daughter and granddaughter. She is also facing terminal cancer.
After a diagnosis of malignant melanoma last year, Carlton asked her doctor to admit her to Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC). It is a decision she and her family have been pleased with.
"Hospice gives you a guide to the end of your life," Carlton says. "The basic thing is, I want to spend as much quality time with the people I love for as long as I can."
Hospice of NGMC helps patients with terminal illnesses stay at home. Hospice nurses, social workers and volunteers provide support and care for the patient and the patient’s family.
"We’ve never done this before," says Kaye’s daughter, Brandy Garrow. "It makes me feel less alone that other people have been there. Hospice staff members coach you through it."
Kaye found out she had skin cancer after a gardening accident at her Gainesville residence last May. She had a brown oval spot on her left heel for years. Doctors had looked at it, but no action had ever been taken because it appeared to be harmless. The spot became a sore that would not heal after the injury.
A dermatologist performed a biopsy on the spot and discovered malignant melanoma.
"We were expecting to find a bad infection, but it was already Level 4 cancer. It was bad," Carlton says.
Carlton had surgery to remove the area from her heel in August 2007. At that time, a check of Carlton’s lymph nodes showed the cancer had not spread. A month later, she still had pain where the lymph nodes had been checked. The site had never recovered from the surgery. By October, the melanoma was back, and a PET scan later that month showed that it had spread.
Carlton entered hospice care on Dec. 13, 2007. She moved in with her daughter’s family in Suwanee. Currently, Carlton’s hospice nurse visits her once a week.
"This is a wonderful service," says Carlton. " My nurse monitors my vital signs, listens to my concerns works with my doctor to manage my pain and is very helpful with day-to-day concerns. Hospice even arranges for my medications to be delivered to my door."
Carlton credits her faith in God for a feeling of internal peace about her diagnosis and says she is blessed with wonderful and supportive family, church family and friends. She is a member of Central Baptist Church in Gainesville and has a very supportive church family.
"Death itself is a very normal part of life," she says. "I’m not fighting it; I’m not afraid. At the same time, I’m not throwing in the towel. I intend to livethis precious time. I’m participating in life. I’m doing housework, and I’m cooking meals. I help my granddaughter with her homework."
Garrow says she has been surprised at all the services offered to families through Hospice of NGMC.
"I think the scary part for the family member is, what happens afterwards? How will I feel? How will I react?" Garrow says. "Something I’ve been grateful for is that they’ll check in with the family for 13 months afterwards."
Garrow also says the support her 10-year-old daughter, Megan, has received already from Hospice has been especially helpful.
"Our social worker gave us books written for kids about death. For us, it was a turning point and allowed us to talk about it," Garrow explains.
Carlton wants to use her experience with skin cancer and Hospice to help others. She urges everyone to have regular skin check-ups and to pay attention to moles and other changes in the skin’s appearance. It is especially important for women of all ages to pay close attention to any mole or other skin changes that appear on the lower parts of their bodies.
"I can’t do anything about this cancer that has me," she says. "The only way I can fight melanoma is to talk to everyone I know, and have them talk to everyone they know, about the importance of going to the dermatologist."
She and her family also want to educate people about hospice care."(Hospice) can make a huge difference in those last months. It can make the quality of life so much better," she says. "We are so grateful that I’ve had this time."
To learn more about Hospice of NGMC, call (770)533-8888.