Farroll Barrett sat comfortably at his kitchen table one afternoon recalling old family memories and enjoying light conversation with his wife, Gloria, his daughter, Jill, and a Hospice of the Valley volunteer who visits his Ahwatukee Foothills home once a week.
Barrett, 77, has terminal lung, brain and bone cancer. Yet his poised demeanor and sharp banter makes him appear as if he would be someone else's caregiver rather than a patient, who 18 months ago was given six to eight months to live.
After choosing to stop chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which were successful in reducing the amounts of tumors in his brain and lungs, the Barretts were advised to look into Hospice of the Valley, a non-profit organization that provides care services to those who are nearing the end of their life.
The couple, who moved to Ahwatukee nine years ago, was apprehensive about the idea at first, because Barrett still seemed so healthy.
"Too many people have the vision of Hospice as a place where you go to die," said Barrett, who insists it's much more than that. "It is the place where you die, but (the time or date) is not certain.
"It's really been a good experience, and it's the great services they provide that people don't think about," he added.
Barrett receives care from a nurse practitioner, exercise with a physiologist, and his unexpected companionship from volunteer Oldy Oldenburg.
"In all of this sickness and sadness, there's a lot of laughter," said Gloria, who also takes full care of her husband. "I think that's why this man is living this long."
Oldenburg visits Barrett for four hours once a week, to give Gloria necessary time to herself to run errands.
"(We) found that we had a lot in common, and it's been a good relationship," Barrett said of Oldenburg.
Oldenburg has been volunteering at Hospice for almost nine years, and admits that it is easy to get attached to patients.
Oldenburg said the philosophy of all volunteers is that you have no control over what may happen after you leave (a patient's home), so you make it the best four hours possible.
The Barretts advise families of those who may need to enter a Hospice care facility or need at-home care, not to wait and to get involved as soon as possible.
"I can't say enough about (Hospice)," Barrett said, "They provide so much comfort."
He said his life has lasted so much longer than he and his family thought, and will stay positive.
"I'm going to stay at home as long as I can," Barrett said, "There's hope."
Hospice of the Valley, 1510 E. Flower St. in Phoenix, has 17 care units all over the Valley. For more information, call (602) 530-6900 or visit www.hov.org.
Diana Martinez is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.