The treatment of any potentially deadly condition carries with it for most people an element of hope – that the treatment will be a success, they’ll regain their good health and that they’ll live for many more years.
Sadly, of course, for some, that’s not the outcome. Instead, they and their family must deal with a barrage of emotions as the patient makes the difficult transition from active treatment to palliative care.
Dr Ralph McConaghy is a palliative care specialist who helps patients and their loved ones navigate this journey, says the end of active treatment is a devastating moment for most people who are fighting cancer.
“They have a conversation with the oncologist, who says there’s no more treatment we can offer you to fix this cancer, so it’s going to progress and it will end your life,” he says. “Quite often the patient feels like ‘you’ve put me in a row boat, untied me from the jetty, pushed me into the ocean and I’m sailing away by myself’.”