Vincent Latreille's story: his experience with palliative care
When Vincent’s mother, Lyne, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, it was a shock to him and his sister. They were only 15 and 17 years old at the time, forced to grow up quickly to take care of their mother.
As Lyne’s condition was further declining, they learned more about what palliative care really meant. The team caring for Vincent’s mother helped them to understand that it wasn’t just about death.
“The care team was there to help us understand that palliative care doesn’t mean death right away, but that it is important to spend time with our mom instead of thinking about the future. The care was better suited for her needs.”
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In 2014, the family received the devastating news that the cancer had spread to Lyne’s brain. When it became clear to Vincent and his sister that they needed more support in dealing with their mother’s progressing illness, they leaned on the supports that palliative care offered.
"We were supported by Palliative Home-Care Society of Greater Montreal, by a nurse and a doctor. They were a gem in our lives, supporting us for two and a half years."
For Vincent and his sister, palliative care gave them access to nurses and doctors who were supportive and understood what they were going through. When their mother’s health declined further, she was transferred to le pavillon Rosemont de l’hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont. Lyne was there for about 2 weeks before passing away. The staff helped Vincent and his sister manage their grief and accept the reality of what was happening.
"I still remember one time when I collapsed in the hallway, because all the pain and sorrow in the world had come over me. One of the nurses came and sat with me on the floor and listened to me, listened to my pain and sorrow. I could not have had a better experience with palliative care."
The main benefit that palliative care brought to Vincent and his family was stability. Having the same nurse and doctor caring for their mother throughout the process was comforting for them.
"Having companionship with the same person has made us feel more comfortable, knowing that my mother was well taken care of. The bond has even remained with my sister and me. It allowed my mother to leave a positive mark despite the enormously difficult situation."
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Vincent’s experience with palliative care also extends to his professional life. After his mother passed away in 2017, he enrolled in a Social Work program at CEGEP. Since then, he’s worked with people facing declining independence, which involves sometimes working with individuals in palliative care. With this background, Vincent knows just how valuable palliative care is and what needs to be improved.
"I would say that the majority of the services we offer are not tailored to palliative care either. I fight regularly at my job to have tailored services for people at the end of life, because people should be allowed to die with dignity and not to stress or anguish about receiving adequate service. I think that flexibility with people in palliative care should be more present."
As the voice of Canadians who care about cancer, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) remains committed to advocating for quality palliative care for those in the end-of-life stages and their families. Affordable, culturally safe and high-quality palliative care should be available to everyone regardless of where they live and what setting they choose to receive care.
Your voice is powerful — the more stories we can share with our networks, the more impact we’ll have.