High School Sweethearts

Ed & Mary Heyboer were high school sweethearts. The couple was married for 49 years, and loved to travel around the country in their fifth wheel and spend quality time together. Ed enjoyed tinkering with technology, and was heavily involved with the local amateur radio. Although he was diagnosed as legally blind at a young age, he never let that slow him down.

“He was a very independent person,” said Mary Heyboer. “If he needed help, he would ask,  but he liked to learn how to do things himself.”

However, when Ed was diagnosed with cancer and given a prognosis of six months, both Ed and Mary decided they needed a little help. “The doctor basically told us we had two options, do chemo or don’t do any treatment,” said Mary. “The doctor was very honest, and he described everything that would happen with chemo. Ed decided he would rather just take the chance of having a good quality of life for the six months that he had left.”

Soon after, Ed’s doctor highly recommended they call Hospice of Holland. “If he wouldn’t have said anything about hospice, we probably would have just went home and waited until it got bad to call hospice,” said Mary. “But he said ‘I highly recommend that you don’t wait. Call right away.’ Too many people wait because they think hospice is for the last few weeks. He said ‘your journey is about six months. Hospice is so professional and will help you right at the very beginning of your journey.’ So we went home and called (Hospice of Holland) on Monday and someone came out on Tuesday to assess him and get us signed up.”

Because Ed chose to take on supportive care through Hospice of Holland at the beginning of his prognosis, he was able to thrive. He could continue to do the things he loved while being free of the pain and symptoms he would have experienced with chemotherapy and other treatments. Mary recalled a time hospice helped relieve him of an aggressive cough that was holding him back from enjoying life.

“The first month on hospice, Ed started to get a cough. We thought he was just getting a cold or something. But the (hospice) nurse recognized it right away. She told us she thought that because of where the tumor was, a typical reaction of the body is to want to cough because there’s something foreign there. She explained it so well. She told Ed that they should get him on a breathing treatment. He asked her ‘what do l need that for?’ The nurse explained that it relaxes the lungs. lt relaxes that coughing mechanism. By the end of the week he was coughing so hard he was gagging. He was so exhausted. So we agreed to try the breathing treatment Hospice recommended. In came the breathing machine and they showed me how to use it. By one week he was hardly coughing at all. He didn’t cough like that again the entire six months of his journey.”

As Ed’s illness progressed and his health began to decline, the couple’s reliance on Hospice of Holland grew. Mary was relieved she could call any time of day or night and someone would be available to address her concerns and answer her questions.

Ed passed away peacefully in early spring, after six months of being on hospice care. Although losing someone you love is never easy, Mary is grateful for the support she had because of their decision to call Hospice of Holland. “The greatest benefit of hospice was helping me see the joy in Ed’s last days, if I can put it that way,” Mary said. “Hospice helped us walk from Ed’s prognosis to when he took his last breath. (Hospice of Holland) has the experience and a passion to make this journey a pleasant one, to make end-of-life a good experience; not only for the person who is dying but for the people by their side. Why would you not want them? Hospice has an image of being the last part, when it could be the beginning. Why wouldn’t you pick them to walk with you? l couldn’t imagine doing it alone.”

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Mary was relieved she could call any time of day or night and someone would be available to address her concerns and answer her questions.

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