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Cancer survivor provides compassion, emotional comfort

Marion County Relay for Life is this weekend

Staff writer

Being a breast cancer survivor herself and experiencing what life has given her, Joyce Kyle of rural Burns is a compassionate hospice volunteer.

Joyce has volunteered her time for the past 5.5 years, first to Central Home Care & Hospice and now Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice of Newton.

“I kind of got talked into it,” she said, “but I have never been sorry.”

One irony is that 24 years earlier when Joyce and her husband, Wayne, received the devastating news of Joyce’s breast cancer, Joyce was sent to a cancer specialist in Wichita.

“Dr. Harry Hynes was my doctor,” Joyce said, the same Harry Hynes for whom the hospice organization is named.

“He was a very kind man and provided great care,” she said.

As a hospice volunteer, Joyce is called to relieve caregivers, usually family members, and spend time with cancer patients.

“A lot of times, I’ll just sit and hold a patient’s hand and stroke their arm,” Joyce said.

Two days of training are required for new volunteers and then the volunteers are asked to attend additional training to obtain information and as a refresher.

Volunteers are required to send a written report to the hospice organization after each visit. Joyce also keeps a record of her visits, so she can remember and reflect.

“I try to make them comfortable while I’m there.”

Sometimes patients are alert and can converse, but more times than not, they are quiet but Joyce knows her time is not wasted.

“I’ll read to them, sometimes sing, whatever the family wants me to do,” she said. “Even though they are not awake, I know they are aware that someone is there.”

Joyce makes it clear that she is not a caregiver — does not dispense medications, bathe, or move patients.

She provides emotional comfort.

Typically, the hospice organization is contacted when a patient has about six months to live. Joyce knows she may be with them when they die.

“I have been with two people when they have died. The families thanked me for being there,” she said. “That’s the most rewarding part of my job.”

Last Monday, Joyce went to a nursing home in the county and sat with a patient for two hours.

The next day the patient died.

“I attend the funerals of the people I visit. It gives me closure,” she said.

The same hospice volunteer typically will stay with the same patients until either the patient dies or no longer needs their care.

“I had one patient who got better and didn’t need my service,” Joyce said.

Joyce never knows when the telephone might ring and she is asked to spend time with an ill person. Sometimes there have been long lulls of several months, other times she’s busier.

In all, she estimates she has visited 25 people, some routinely at least once a week.

“I can get pretty attached to the people. It is still difficult when a patient dies,” she said.

Joyce never dreamed she would be a comforter in this stage of her own life.

Sixteen years earlier, her husband, Wayne, died suddenly from a heart attack. Since that time, she has kept busy with volunteer work, including this cause.

“I don’t like to see people sick but the rewards are great,” she said.

With a gentle touch and comforting words, the octogenarian who has lived more than 60 years as a farmer’s wife, is ready to bring relief to those family members in need of a break from caring for a loved one.

About hospice

The concept of hospice was to provide a place of shelter and rest, or “hospitality” to weary and sick travelers on a long journey.

In 1967, Dame Cicely Saunders at St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, first applied the term “hospice” to specialized care for dying patients.

Today, hospice care provides humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable diseases so that they may live as fully and as comfortably as possible.

The hospice philosophy is to accept death as the final stage of life. The goal of hospice is to enable patients to continue an alert, pain-free life, and to manage other symptoms so that their last days may be spent with dignity and quality, surrounded by their loved ones.

Care can be provided in the patient’s home, a hospital, nursing home, or private hospice facility.

The mission of Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice is to enable people to live with dignity and hope while coping with loss and terminal illness.

Wichita doctor Harry Hynes was instrumental in the founding of Hospice of Wichita/Hospice Inc. Prior to his death in December 2000, Hynes was an oncologist with the Cancer Center of Kansas.

Hynes understood the difficult challenges cancer patients face in all phases of their illness, especially when they reach the last stage. It was with this in mind that he initiated efforts in the late 1970s to start a hospice program in the Wichita area.

There are a handful of volunteers in the Marion County area and more are needed.

For more information, contact Rita Ynes at (800) 767-4965 or hospice@hynesmemorial.org.

Last modified July 31, 2008

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