Honoring a wish to be at home - Mike Feeney
Physicians: John Gosling, MD
Despite the cold, dark night of January 30, 2021, everything was warm and bright within the New Buffalo home of Mike and Pam Feeney. They shared an intimate dinner to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and spent hours marveling at their years spent together.
“We talked about everything,” said Mike, All the memories, when we met, how we had lunch that day and talked for three hours. We were married eleven months later. It was really that simple.”
They reminisced about their young married years, raising their beloved sons, Benjamin and Robert, their joy in being parents, parents-in-law, and grandparents.
But just weeks after that night, 72-year-old Pam was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Throughout her life, Pam had endured health problems and surgeries, but this diagnosis was much different.
As the doctor began to discuss chemotherapy, Pam stopped him.
“She reached over, grabbed my hand, and looked at the doctor,” said Mike. “She said, we were going home and that I would take care of her. Our lives changed in that moment.”
Pam made it clear that she wanted to be with Mike at home for her final days.
“With her history of health issues, more chemotherapy and surgery were not in the cards for her,” said Mike. “That’s why we made a choice to go home. She trusted me to care for her and it scared the living daylights out of me. But I’ve always known her instincts to be right.”
Pam’s primary care physician, John Gosling, MD, immediately connected the Feeneys with Caring Circle. A hospice nurse came to their home and activated care services the next day.
“We started getting visits from nurse Becky,” said Mike. “She was a wonderful combination of common sense, kindness, and encouragement.”
All that Mike and Pam had learned about each other in 50 years of marriage was put to use to make the following months of caregiving successful. But Mike couldn’t do it alone.
“Asking for help can be awkward, but when someone is deathly ill, you need it,” said Mike. “You never feel more alone than when you’re in a room with someone who needs your help and you’re not really sure how to do that. With hospice, you get a whole team who knows how to do what you don’t.”
With Caring Circle supporting the Feeneys, Mike learned how to care for Pam and when to ask for help. Social worker, Vivine Owen, explained things in a way that resonated with Mike and Pam and ensured that everyone was on the same page.
“It gave us comfort, wisdom to do it right, and relief that someone knowledgeable was looking over our shoulder,” said Mike. “It was a comfort to know that they could anticipate what would lie ahead.”
Through it all, Mike and Pam relied on their inseparable bond. For 50 years, they had hugged, held hands, finished each other’s sentences, and shared much laughter. Those moments continued in the final months.
But as summer progressed, so did Pam’s condition.
“It was so obvious things weren’t going well,” said Mike. “We all knew how it would end. I even had to call a few times in the evening and Caring Circle talked me through questions.”
Pam—described by loved ones as a wife, educator, mother, grandmother, sibling, daughter, friend, singer, author, storyteller, and dancing machine—died at home with family in October 2021.
But with that great loss, Mike also acknowledged something the family had gained.
“None of this would have been possible if she was in the hospital,” said Mike. “If Caring Circle had not been our team and support, we would have missed our last best opportunity to have Pam with us. If she were here, she would say thank you, thank you, thank you.”