GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)- It’s not the easiest thing to advertise or something we really enjoy talking about, so too often the valuable resource of palliative care is misunderstood and underutilized. 

If you have any negative perceptions of palliative care, a local man from Denmark just might change your mind.  

“They don’t make my decisions for me,” said Brian Braun. “I still make ’em for myself.” 

Denmark’s Brian Braun is so full of life and laughter, it’s hard to believe he’s battling stage IV lung cancer. 

“I’m still doing pretty much what I’ve always done,” Braun said. “Stuff I don’t like, shoveling snow and cutting lawn but it’s gotta be done.” 

Braun hasn’t been fighting his battle alone. 

“I got in early on, which I’m glad I did,” he said. 

Braun’s talking about his experience with palliative care  

“Oh God, I don’t know what I’d do without them,” he said. “I have no idea what we’d do without ’em.” 

Braun got connected with his Palliative Care team at Aurora BayCare Medical Center more than four years ago. 

“We try to help be a resource to them in what is very often the most complex time of their life,” explained Dr. Jay Bennett, hospice and palliative care medicine, Aurora BayCare. “We have a whole team, nursing, social workers, doctors and a chaplain.”  

Bennett says Braun’s experience is a good example of how much patients can benefit from this valuable resource.  

“What we want to do is be a voice and allow their voice to be heard in their care plan,” Bennett explained. “What our specialty tries to do is get an understanding of what that patient and their loved ones are experiencing after a life altering diagnosis.” 

It’s a resource which is often misunderstood. 

“People think you’re done,” Braun said. “If I go talk to them, I’m not going to live ’til tomorrow.” 

Sarah Mickelson, a social worker on Braun’s Palliative Care team, says that confusion with end of life resources is common. 

“A major misconception is that palliative care is the same as hospice,” Mickelson explained. “It’s not hospice. For some it’s more of the practical things, transportation, financial issues, insurance questions. Other times we offer more emotional support, talking through what’s going on from their perspective and supporting them.” 

Braun and Mickelson exemplify the importance of building that rapport and close relationship over the years. 

“She’s a Godsend, I’ll tell you that,” Braun said. “My girlfriend and I got very close to Sarah and the rest of the crew.” 

Asking questions and sharing his concerns, which for Braun, like many patients are not for himself. 

“I worry more about my son and my girlfriend than I do about me,” he shared. 

That’s where palliative care helps put his mind at ease 

“In a time when loved ones might feel helpless, it gives them someone to say, ‘Well, this is what I’m worried about. This is what I’m trying to plan and prepare for.’ and someone they have rapport with.” 

Braun’s already exceeded even his own expectations about the future 

“I expected one year when I was diagnosed,” he recalled. 

So, he’s not planning to give up quite yet… well, maybe just the lawn work. 

“Maybe not next year but we’ll see,” he chuckled. “We’ll get through this year and see what happens.” 

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