Anthony and Lori Giannico dreamed of a retirement filled with swimming and shell collecting on a sunny Florida beach. Ready to make it happen, they moved to Florida from their New York home in 2018. Anthony had plans to fix up a beach house for Lori to enjoy.
Then, in July 2019, Lori was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer and immediately began chemotherapy treatments. The aggressive cancer put their plans of days at the beach on hold indefinitely.
Even with treatment, the ordeal was taking a toll on Lori’s body. She lost about 100 pounds and was mostly confined to her bed. The car rides to appointments became nearly unbearable. The emotional stress began to weigh on everyone.
“I’ve repaired things that were broken all my life and this I can’t fix,” says Anthony. “I didn’t know a whole lot about how to be her caregiver.”
In January, her cancer team suggested that it was time to call Empath Health for palliative care. Also known as “comfort care,” it focuses on relieving pain, symptoms and stress during a serious illness.
Lori’s palliative care team consists of a care navigator, nurse, and a social worker who meet with the family on a regular basis and a spiritual care coordinator who is available as needed. Together, their focus is on providing comfort for Lori and support for Anthony to feel comfortable as a caregiver.
“When we first met the family we were deeply concerned. Lori was in a very precarious medical condition,” explains Candace Dornstauder, APRN, AGNP-C, APRN, program director for the Empath Health Palliative Care program.
Right away, the team got to work reviewing and addressing concerns about medications and developing a plan of care. Lori’s social worker provides strategies on how to cope and regularly talks to her daughter, Nicole, who lives with her and Anthony.
“The passion and knowledge has been incredible,” adds Anthony. “It’s amazing how much information, help and guidance they gave us.”
The average life expectancy for a person after receiving the diagnosis of stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer is between three to six months. Lori is now going on 14 months.
“Lori’s success has been such a motivation to our team,” adds Candace, “To see a genuine improvement in someone’s quality of life is what we work hard to achieve every day.”
The additional time together has given Lori the opportunity to celebrate milestones with her family. Her daughter, Demi, was married in January. Her other daughter, Stephanie, is preparing for her wedding in November. There is even a new puppy around the house.
“The care of Empath Health has given us time to talk to each other. Nothing has to go unsaid because we get to say everything,” says Anthony. “No words can describe our gratitude.”
The family is still taking things day by day, but is thankful for every moment they get to spend together.
“The compassion, the knowledge and flexibility of this team is unparalleled in its exceptional excellence of service for my wife and my family,” he adds. “Because of the amazing support I know that Lori is still here with us.”
Learn more about how our Palliative Care program can help you or a loved one improve their quality of life through our specialized care and support.