Editor’s Note: Thanh Nguyen, a recent graduate of the University of California, Davis, has volunteered her time and talent at Kiwanis Family House, assisting with grant writing and other administrative staff work. We recently gave Thanh the opportunity to interview guest Lorraine Ancic, who has permitted us to share her story.
Nearly three months into my volunteer work at Kiwanis Family House, I had the privilege of meeting one of our guest patients, Lorraine Ancic. Before coming to Sacramento for treatment, Lorraine had been living in Butte County with her niece’s family — sleeping on their couch. She has been staying at Kiwanis Family House since mid-June of this year. Aside from spending her time recuperating from cancer, Lorraine could be seen ambling through our facility comforting guests dealing with various medical crises.
At first glance, I was given the impression that Lorraine is doing well, thanks to the regular smile she has on her countenance with no traces of sadness marring her lively features. However, as our initial greetings lulled into a steady conversation, my previous impression of her in recovery was immediately dispelled.
Lorraine’s ongoing challenge against cancer began six years ago. In 2010, she had a successful operation to remove an upper portion of her cancer-infected lung. The subsequent result gave her a brief respite. Unfortunately, the bad news resurfaced in greater magnitude six years later. In April 2016, after a series of failed diagnostic tests, doctors detected a tumor in her vaginal region along with cancer cells in its adjacent lymph node. They initially prescribed radiation treatment to eliminate the tumor and to prevent cancer cells from spreading.
While bearing through the radiation treatment, Lorraine commuted to Sacramento from Chico. It wasn’t until the radiation regimen was coupled with chemotherapy that a string of unpleasant symptoms (i.e. diarrhea, vomiting, bed sores) made her far too ill to travel. In an effort to rebuild strength for further treatment, doctors referred her to Kiwanis Family House, a decision she praised as, “a blessing. Being close to the hospital for my treatment is really convenient. I’m grateful for it.”
In spite of adopting healthy habits to facilitate her own recovery, recent news regarding Lorraine’s overall health has not been in her favor. PET scans showed widespread infection throughout her body: cancer cells spreading within her bones, liver, and lymph nodes. Of the options to alleviate the problem, doctors suggested that she continue her previous treatment plan, the one involving the combination of radiation and chemotherapy — both of which will guarantee no positive outcome and will inevitably make her more ill.
Lorraine instead chose to end treatment immediately and enroll in hospice care sometime in the future — much to her son’s dismay. Lorraine’s son is resistant to the idea of his mother being apart from her family while in hospice care. But her decision remains unwavering solely because she fears family caregivers will experience an unmanageable burden of care. In the end, she accepted the misfortunes with bravery and a positive outlook not commonly seen in individuals afflicted with this grievous disease.
When asked how she could have such a positive attitude in the face of adversity, Lorraine credited the network of support she received from family members, friends, and even the staff of Kiwanis Family House. Despite living alone at Kiwanis House, with occasional visits from her family, Lorraine claimed she has never felt neglected because, “everybody [at Kiwanis Family House] is so helpful. The support and kindness of the staff helped build my strength back up. They’ve gotten me through some rough times.” Living in a homey environment and being surrounded by a caring group of people ultimately enabled her to face difficult situations more confidently.
As her stay at Kiwanis Family House came to an end, Lorraine returned to Chico, not with a heavy heart, but rather with renewed motivation. Motivation to strengthen family ties, to uphold spiritual principles, to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, and to “live life to the fullest.” Staff at Kiwanis Family House undoubtedly will continue our support for Lorraine as she will travel and reunite with her family for the upcoming holiday seasons.