Nature: Cachexia – The last illness
As a palliative-care researcher, Susan McClement has talked to many people dying of cancer and their families — and some of their stories are burned into her brain. One man was so concerned by the sight of his emaciated wife, whose body had been ravaged by metastatic breast cancer, that he resorted to force feeding her — pinching her nose and slipping in a spoonful of food when she opened her mouth. Convinced that food would give her the energy to fight the cancer, his daily visits became protracted battles. She died a few weeks later.
McClement, who works at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, says that nutritional conflicts can become a source of regret for relatives. “They said, ‘You know, if I could do it over again, I would have spent much less time fighting about tapioca pudding and much more time telling my wife that I loved her.’”