Finding Comfort and Support in a Hospice
“I have been living everyday since the cancer spread to my spine and back like it is the last day of my life. I want all of you to remember that life is short; you do not know what is going to happen to you tomorrow. Keep a positive outlook and enjoy the little things that make you happy.”
-Letter written by Michael Schrodel to be read at his funeral.
Facing life as a widow and single mom at age 29 is not easy. And while life hasn’t been easy since the death of her husband, Michael Schrodel, in August 2001, Teresa Schrodel finds the motivation to welcome each new day. Her inspiration is found not only through her four year old daughter, Carmen, but also through the realization of Michael’s wish for her, which is to use her strength and positive outlook to help other people.
Married to Michael in 1994, Teresa looked forward to starting a family and growing old with her college sweetheart and best friend. But when Michael was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March 2000, life’s plans changed dramatically. After 18 months of unsuccessful medical treatment, Michael chose to live his remaining days in hospice care.
The reality of hospice care – comfort treatment over curative treatment – was a difficult truth for Teresa and Michael’s family to accept. But Hospice of the Chesapeake’s professional approach quickly demonstrated the benefits of comprehensive, compassionate care to Michael and his loved ones.
“The nurses provided a listening ear and the knowledge to help me prepare for Michael’s final journey,” says Teresa. “The home health aides kept up Michael’s spirits; they learned that Michael liked to stay fit and although the illness caused paralysis, the aides made sure they exercised his arms and legs during each visit. This level of care added so much comfort to Michael.”
Teresa adds, “We didn’t want to believe that Michael was going to die, but the social workers were integral in initiating a family meeting to explain to us what was going to happen. The next day we begrudgingly started to plan his funeral.”
Teresa realizes that she and Michael were fortunate to be able to plan his final celebration together. She adds, “While I was still not able to say goodbye to Michael, I had the support of the hospice staff to help me deal with the very traumatic final days and this made a big difference after Michael died.”
Almost two years later, Teresa finds comfort and solace in her family and in a widow support group at her church. “I struggled to find support because I wanted to be with people my age who were in the same situation. But I realize that age doesn’t matter. Grief is grief to all regardless of age.” And while she “closes doors when she can,” Teresa realizes that to take a step forward in the grief process sometimes “you take a step back”.
Today, she’s moving ahead with the construction of a new house on property that she and Michael picked out before he got sick. “I’ve never had a day where I feel like I can’t go on. I am glad to be alive and fortunate to have the life I have with our daughter.”