Most people have something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. Dolores Bower, battling chronic obstruction pulmonary disease, is thankful most for the most simple thing: Being alive.
“My family, the people I love and who love me, I am so thankful to be here with them,” said Bower, 78. “And I am thankful for hospice. Without them, I wouldn’t be here talking.”
When 2012 arrived, Bower didn’t know if she would see Valentine’s Day, let alone Thanksgiving. Back in January, at the end of a second bout of pneumonia in her weak lungs, Bower’s doctor told her he’d said a prayer for her that night because he didn’t know if she would wake up. The doctor said he wanted to call in hospice.
Anybody, and more so anybody sick, hears the word hospice and the left hand reaches for the phone to call the funeral home. The right hand calls the florist.
“I’m like almost anybody, you hear the word hospice, you automatically think of death,” Bower said. “I called my brother - he is a doctor, 86 years old, and he still makes house calls - and I asked him point blank, ‘They want to bring in hospice: Is it so I can live, or so I can die?”
Bower’s brother said no, hospice does not have to mean immediate death.
Dolores Bower, 4 feet 9 inches tall, 90 pounds, did not die.
“My wife, she’s a fighter,” said Jimmy Bower, the husband of 57 years.
Dolores Bower credits hospice - her provider is Hospice and Community Care - for not only helping to extend her life, but make her life better while she is alive. This is a tough lady who lived in Philadelphia until she was 70: Rocky Balboa has nothing on Dolores Bower.
“Certainly hospice prepares people for death, but the work they do, the care they give, prepares you for a much longer life,” Bower said. “Their idea is to try and make you better.”
Bower credits the team of medical and social workers that hospice uses who have helped her stay at home, and very much alive, for an incredible 10 months.
“When we first came in, no one knew how long it might be,” said Mary Beth Bowen, the twice-a-week hospice nurse who has become like family to Dolores and Jimmy Bower. “The doctors, initially, didn’t think she’d be able to beat it.”
But Dolores fought on and her husband supported her. The hospice team came, week after week. That care remains at her home in Sun City in Indian Land in northern Lancaster County.
Jimmy, her retired machinist husband, the guy with a quick grin and handshake like a C-clamp, said of his wife: “I just can’t lose her. She’s some lady. The best anybody could ask for.”
Dolores Bower has to carefully monitor exertion, and there are no guarantees in life, she said. So she does what ladies who were born in the Great Depression have always done - clean. She cleans her home still to the point that one could eat off the floors.
Yet she smiles, and laughs through the coughs that come, often. And Dolores Bower plans to eat enough during the Thanksgiving meal to cause heartburn for a lumberjack.
“I feel I am going to make it a while longer - I am not giving up,” Bower said. “That’s the secret. You fight.”
Hospice has helped Dolores Bower make each day count. Although she has been in hospice care for 10 months with no plans to close up shop, Bower advises anybody today to be thankful for family, and health, and love.
She urges anybody to help someone, to give a little bit to somebody who needs a hand. To make life for someone the best it can be. Don’t plan for Thanksgiving 2013, she said.
This year’s day for thanking somebody is here now.