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Roxanne Roundtree, Houston TX

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Roxanne Russell Roundtree was diagnosed with ALS-Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2008 at age 30. She is an active mother of 3 growing boys: Don (16), Brad (13), and Bryce (11). Before her disease took over, she was a home health nurse and traveled the Madisonville area caring for those who were not able to travel for health care. After her full time nursing job, she was also a full time mother. She was team mom, home keeper, and cook. Her boys are her everything. Although she is no longer able to move from the neck down or speak, she is still at every event her boys are a part of. Football games, band concerts, rodeos, jackpots, baseball, stock shows, etc., she does it all!

Her husband has dedicated his life to care for her 24/7. She wrote this cookbook over a period of two years using a computer that reads her eye movements. With this technology, she is able to write, text, email, speak, and use the internet to shop for birthday and Christmas gifts! This cookbook originally started as a Christmas gift in a 3 brad folder to her mother and sisters. Then it was sold as a fundraiser to help her middle child, Brad, pay his way to the Junior High State Rodeo Finals in Gonzales in June of 2013. He qualified in team roping and chute dogging.

During that particular fundraiser, her story caught the attention of various people including roping great, Joe Beaver who sponsored Brad, companies like Holiday Inn Express-Gonzales, Texas, who donated a handicap accessible room for the family to stay in for the duration of the finals week and RFD-TV, who filmed a special that will air June 24! The funds from the sale of the cookbook will contribute to the Roundtree family to cover living and medical expenses, as well as, helping pay for their handicap accessible home. Their home was built due to the generosity of Roxanne’s parents. Through the hard economic times that have affected us all, Roxanne’s parents are now in need of help to continue paying for Roxanne’s home. A web page has been created using Go Fund Me for those who wish to donate to that specific cause.

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Stan Cesaro, Wilmington DE

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Stan Cesaro’s world came crashing down on April 29th of 2010, when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Her decline was devastatingly rapid, and within just a matter of months, Stan found himself sitting in an empty house.

A Delaware Hospice team cared for her during her final days, and Stan felt that the staff was dynamite and the care was excellent, as he had expected. But what he had not anticipated was the after-care and support they offered him as he struggled to cope with his loss.

“A Bereavement Counselor was here the week after my wife passed,” said Stan, “and she was with me every week. She would come to the house, I would cry, and she would talk to me. We talked about what I should and shouldn’t do. I was ready to pack up and sell the house, because everywhere I looked, my wife was there. She advised me not to do anything immediately that I might regret later.”

He realized he needed to get out of the house, and he decided to attend one of Delaware Hospice’s six-week grief support groups. Then he learned about a monthly, drop-in grief group meeting nearby at MOT in Middletown, and he began to attend that group. Reading Delaware Hospice’s bereavement newsletter, he discovered another group that was meeting in Dover for monthly dinners and he began to go there as well.

Stan said, “I didn’t do much talking in the beginning, only listening. I was in a deep funk. But I just knew that I had to keep attending those meetings and getting out of the house.” At one point, Stan was trying to figure out how he knew the guy, Bill, sitting across the table from him at Franco’s in Dover, and Bill was wondering the same thing. He said, “Finally, when I attended the next MOT meeting, there he was again. I said to Bill, ‘I knew that I had met you, but I didn’t remember how.’”

Gradually, the camaraderie among several members of the group grew. Stan said, “I really appreciated the warmth of a few people, who made me feel so welcome and willing to return each month. Then, someone said, ‘Why don’t we get together and do this, or the other?’  All of a sudden, we started loosening up. I began to open up and participate more actively.

I met John, who lives right around the corner. We began planning dinners and luncheons on our own, and this social life began to move us over the hump. We started to focus on other things, and we had places to go and things to do. It has just mushroomed from there.”

It’s not been smooth sailing, by any means, for Stan. He tragically lost his son a year after the loss of his wife. He said, “That was very tough, but the friendships that I had with the people I’d met through the Delaware Hospice grief support groups really helped me through it.”

John Fahey also lives in Middletown, and his wife also became a victim of cancer, but struggled with it longer. John said, “She was going in and out of treatments. When they told us the medication was killing her faster than the cancer, we went home and Delaware Hospice came in. They came to the house, set up a hospital bed, brought oxygen and equipment. She lasted only three more weeks, but the hospice people were with us when we needed them. They were terrific.”

“Afterwards, the bereavement counselor called to see if I needed help. She told me all the options of support groups where I could go for more support. That’s where I met Stan and some others. By then they were further along in their recovery. Even though we had been through similar terrible losses, I could see they had a great humor about them. They always made me feel comfortable.”

The gazebo in Stan’s backyard has become a “man cave” for Stan and his new, fellow-widower friends. He said, “When these guys come over, the neighbors think we’re having a party. We eat, we drink, we laugh, and we go home, and it’s not so hard.”

Not everyone is at the same place in their grief journey, but they find great support and understanding among them. Stan said, “Both John and I met our wives at the age of 17 and experienced a long, wonderful marriage. We really know what each other has been going through.”

Stan will always be thankful to Delaware Hospice, not only for the care of his wife through her illness, but also for helping him along the grief journey. He said, “Delaware Hospice did it for me. I always found the meetings to be a sort of cleansing.”

John also credits Delaware Hospice for the impact on his life. “Losing a mate is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. It’s like half of your brain dies. The grief groups helped. At each session, we would go over various topics, talk through our feelings and thoughts. Everybody would listen, tell their stories, or give advice. I had kept a photograph of my wife which was on her coffin at the funeral. They advised me to take it down because it would always remind me of the funeral, which I finally did. Delaware Hospice was responsible for organizing those sessions that got us together. They got men out of their empty houses, and I’ll always be grateful.”

Story Credit: Beverly Crowl, of Delaware Hospice

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Maureen Reiss, Wilmington DE

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Life’s journey can sometimes take a rough path and you just need someone special to help you along—or in Maureen Reiss’ case, a team of special Delaware Hospice professionals. It was Maureen’s turn to care for her mother.  Always an active and healthy woman, June Keenan had suffered a stroke while vacationing in Florida.  Along with other symptoms, she lost her ability to communicate her wishes and needs.

Maureen’s home near Milford was too small to take her in, so she found an assisted living facility 30 minutes away.  Maureen said, “My mother was so frustrated that she was not able to express herself, and she became very challenging.  She would grind her teeth constantly, spit out her medications, and throw things on the floor.  With her physical disabilities from the stroke, she could only eat with her fingers, so no one would sit with her at meals.  From being a lovely, sociable person she had suddenly become someone that few could understand or communicate with, and she was furious about it.”

One of the few things that worked well to calm her was Maureen’s therapy dog.  She said, “My mother loved the dog.  She would make soft sounds and pretend to kiss the dog.”

With a few hospitalizations for minor health issues, she suffered additional setbacks in her physical rehabilitation.  Simultaneously maintaining a family household and caring for her mother grew to become a tremendous burden for Maureen.

In the doctor’s office one day, Maureen met someone from Delaware Hospice who recommended she make a call.  Her mother was admitted as a patient immediately, and Maureen found the help she needed.

“Most important,” remembered Maureen, “was their help in putting a ‘do not hospitalize’ order in effect.  They became advocates for my mother, closely monitoring her medications and working through her particularly challenging situation with smart solutions.”

A lot of caregiver stress comes from wondering what’s happening when they are not at the patient’s side.  Knowing that Delaware Hospice’s team members would be visiting on a certain day, gave Maureen relief.  She said, “I would receive messages on the answering machine just letting me know someone had been to visit my Mom and everything was okay.  It was wonderful to realize I wasn’t in it alone anymore.  I could take a few minutes to do my own laundry and get there a bit later because I knew she was okay.  It was really great to feel that somebody else cared.  I still have those messages on my answering machine!”

“During my mother’s final days, our regular nurse couldn’t be there, but the on-call nurse was at our side and it was as if she had been with us the entire time. It was amazing how she took us through the last hours.  They were hard; but at the same time, I treasure those moments.”

Maureen said, “It’s difficult to put into words all that Delaware Hospice did for us.  It wasn’t just the care and comfort the team provided my mother, but for our entire family. I knew I wasn’t alone, that someone else really did care.  I knew that any time of the day or night I could call and seek advice.  The team empowered me in a way that left me feeling comfortable with a situation that seemed unmanageable at times.”

“Uncertainty can be unnerving, but I knew that I had support.  The team would patiently answer questions that often the medical professionals didn’t have time to answer. They helped me navigate the complexities of many end-of-life issues.  I learned that, ‘Yes, you can do this alone,’ but sharing the load was beneficial not only to me, but also to my family and, most important, to my mother.”

Maureen felt that having Delaware Hospice nurses visit her mother at her assisted living facility was instrumental in avoiding unnecessary hospital visits, as minor ailments were addressed in a timely manner with the assistance of the hospice nurse.

She said, “Most important, since my mother didn’t have very good socialization skills due to her communication disability, the hospice team ‘befriended’ my mother.  During my 34 years teaching experience with children with disabilities, I would often ask parents, ‘What do you want for your child?’  The answer was universal:  ‘I want my son to have a friend.’  You know, that’s exactly what I hoped for my mother, and members of Delaware Hospice’s team became her friends!”

Story Credit: Beverly Crowl, of Delaware Hospice

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