Ending Cancer Treatment: One Patient's Choice

"[She] was sick every time she had the medication, the chemotherapy. … She said, 'Look at the way I've suffered so much. And I'm still going to die.'"

"And she did. So I kept that in my mind, and I swore to God that I would never have that done."

Instead, Stark opted for end-of-life care, also known as hospice care. The goal is to make her as comfortable as possible in her last months of life. She gets help through different treatments, such as a breathing machine that helps her lungs get more oxygen. But her doctors are no longer aiming to cure her cancer.

"I'm still able to do things — not go out nightclubbing, you know what I mean? But, I'm here in the house," she said.

Hospice care can also provide family and loved ones with the chance to say goodbye.

"The other part of what hospice does is to include the family in the care of the patient," said Dr. Marcin Chwistek, an attending physician in oncology with the pain and palliative care program at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

For Stark's family, the decision was challenging to accept.

"My kids were very upset," she said. "My kids wanted me to have treatment and I said, 'No, it's my body, my choice and this is where it's going to go.'"

"And they knew there was no way. … There was no way they were going to change my mind. I'm not a changeable person. If they like it, fine. If they don't, that's just too bad."

And Stark is still alive, more than a year after her diagnosis.

"I said God will help me, and he has," she said. "It has been over a year. What more could I ask for? … I'm still laughing. I think that's what's important. It's the way you take it. You have to accept it for what it is."

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