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Melissa Schmitz: ‘JourneyCare was a gift’


After months of unexplained pain and weight loss, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in early 2016. Quickly, I realized how much care he would need – there were so many medications, treatments and procedures and trips to the emergency room.

Everything changed so fast. It was mind-numbing.

Throughout the process, our choices also weren’t clear. Sometimes, Dad’s doctors would bring up hospice, while simultaneously offering curative treatments like chemotherapy. After several unsuccessful efforts at curing his cancer and relieving his pain, Dad finally said “enough.” He wanted to have his pain truly managed and to enjoy a better quality of life for as much time as he had.

That’s when our friends in the medical field recommended JourneyCare. Once we called, everything about his care changed. A JourneyCare nurse came to our house right away and was so kind, compassionate and understanding. Immediately, we gained a better understanding of what was really happening with Dad’s health.

JourneyCare provided home hospice for my father and his care team was extremely helpful in better managing his pain medications. The revolving door of changing medications and horrible side effects was over. And if any emergencies arose, someone on Dad’s care team was available day or night to deal with them.

All it took was one phone call to JourneyCare … the answer always was “Whatever you need, we will take care of it.”

As Dad’s health declined further, his team recommended 24/7 care at the Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington. During this process, they were so respectful and helped Dad feel like he was part of this choice.

Ultimately, coming to the CareCenter was the best decision for our family. The facility was so nice and very homelike. The entire staff and every volunteer were so gentle and caring, and they did everything possible to give Dad dignity. Additionally, I was allowed to stay with my father every minute of the day. This 24/7 access meant so much to me, since Dad’s condition changed constantly, and I hated to be away from him even for short bits of time. It was so important that I be with him until the end, and the CareCenter team made this possible.

In my Dad’s last days before he died in April 2016, JourneyCare gave me the ability to just be with him, rather than managing Medicare, doctors and hospitals. I could just hold his hand and spend time with him. The team also really took care of me, too. The staff was always encouraging me to get some sleep and eat enough – or often just giving me a hug when I needed it and letting me literally cry on their shoulders at the worst times.

JourneyCare was a relief and a gift, and that is why I choose to share my story and give back to this special organization. So many families need the same care our family received. The provided us with so much genuine comfort and support. I want to ensure every family can access this critical service for years to come.