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She’s upbeat and has a message

Celebration of Life 5K Walk/Run

Sunday, May 3 | 9 a.m.
Bidwell Park’s 1-Mile Picnic Area

This event benefits and raises awareness of hospice and palliative care in Butte County.
Learn more and register online
through Intrepid Adventure Events.

Shirley Cressy, a 71-year-old Chico local since 1977, with cropped wispy white-gray hair, blue eyes and an easy smile, is one of those gems whose “up” attitude and goodness are contagious—being with her just makes you feel good. Maybe that’s why she manages to have so much fun.

She gets around with her walker, family and friends, attending events like a summertime tea party planned by her daughter; an ugly sweater Christmas celebration where guests raced each other to make “ears” by stuffing balloons into Christmas stockings; and attending church and bible studies weekly. Shirley has put together 30 (and counting!) “no-sew throws” since last November, gifts for those in need,  a project that her brother sometimes assists with. She enjoys coffee time with a friend, visits art galleries and other local sites.

“When I tell people I am in hospice, they look at me and say, ‘You’re in hospice?’ They have to ask me about three times; they can’t believe it.”

She says that while she is aware of the “end result,” she also knows that she is blessed with her life that she is living, and it stretches “from the time the doctor puts you in hospice to when the good Lord says you’re coming to me.” She’s certainly making the most of it!

“I can function like most people. I have good days and bad days. I am dealing with cancer; I can’t expect sunshine and roses all the time.”

From thorns to roses

Yet there was a time the thorns outweighed the roses. When Shirley entered hospice one year ago, she was in a wheelchair with pain that made simply getting from her couch to the bathroom unbearable. Now her pain is under control, with the help of pain management, including medication and physical therapy offered through hospice. She no longer needs that wheelchair.

“The members of my hospice team help inspire me spiritually. If you feel good about yourself, it helps you fight your illness,” says Shirley, who has terminal cancer and whose religion is central in her life. As she puts it, “My faith, my family and my hospice team—these are the things that keep me going.”

That’s why it bothers her when she hears people who have misunderstandings about hospice. She’s heard people say that hospice “comes in and takes over your life.” While this is a common misunderstanding, her experience during her past year in hospice has been entirely different. “I get to make the decisions about my medical care.” And when she needs help, “I can call hospice anytime.” It is reassuring for her to know that if she does end up in the hospital, someone from hospice will “be there to be an advocate for me.” On the flip side of that coin, she also appreciates that she can say, “no, not today,” when she is not up for her appointment.

Living fully

The warm feeling is mutual for Shirley’s hospice team. “We all laugh a lot when we come over to see Shirley. Her positive attitude does not let fear rule her life. She relies on faith and her care team.” Dr. David Potter, the medical director for Enloe Hospice, refers to Shirley as “his poster child for hospice.”

“I feel I should be helping others to embrace, not fear, hospice.” Shirley’s wish is to help even just one person with a terminal illness have a better quality of life through hospice. If she sounds like a passionate voice for hospice, that’s because she feels that God put this calling on her heart.

“I am living, not dying. I want … people to know that hospice has allowed me to fully live. It is my hope that anyone who has a terminal illness enters hospice care as early as possible. I am living proof that it truly improves the quality of your life; and I feel I should help others to embrace—not fear—hospice. Hospice is not going to change the outcome of your diagnosis, but it sure can make your life a whole lot better.”


Enloe Hospice: Enloe’s hospice team includes physicians, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, a pharmacist, health aides, and volunteers, including spiritual care volunteers. Enloe Hospice has been providing care in our region since 1978. For more information about Enloe Hospice, visit www.enloe.org/hospice or call (530) 332-6060.


What is hospice care?

Hospice provides services to improve the quality of life for patients dealing with life-limiting illness. Care usually involves relieving symptoms and providing psychological and social support for the patient and family. To qualify for hospice care, a patient usually has a life expectancy of less than 6 months. The decision to pursue hospice care is a decision not to pursue aggressive treatment. In addition, hospice philosophy provides for the spiritual and cultural needs of the patient and family. The goal of hospice care is to provide the terminally ill patient peace, comfort, and dignity.

Help for the family. Research has shown that hospice care at home helps a family as a whole. In addition to being in the comfort of the home, family members can also take an active role in providing supplemental, supportive care to the patient.

At times prolonging life. Hospice care may prolong the lives of some terminally ill patients. Research seems to indicate that the earlier a patient is referred to hospice, the prognosis seems to improve somewhat.

The difference entering early makes. People can receive the full benefits that hospice and palliative care can offer the earlier in the course of their illness that they enter, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.


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