Clara Costales – Orallo: Diary of a cancer patient

Vancouver, B.C.

A former nurse struggles with cancer and shares her story

First of a series

Editor’s note: This is a compilation of exchanges I had with Clara ( ‘Laling’ to friends) over the past years since I reconnected with her through Facebook. We first knew each other back in Winnipeg where she worked as a nurse until her retirement and move to Vancouver soon after the death of her husband, Dr. Paul Orallo, a pathologist at Winnipeg’s Grace Hospital.

She agreed to share these reflections on the travails of negotiating the medical system but more importantly, on a cancer patient’s journey, hoping  that it may help others facing the same situation.

Thank you Clara for for your courage and generosity in opening up your life to others.

-Teodoro ‘Ted’ Alcuitas


She begins with explaining on what a ‘hospice’ is and moves on to diaries of her daily struggle living as a cancer patient.

Clara Costales-Orallo


What is a Hospice? Many does not really know what it is for, the stigma of death. doomed …and never get up to live is the concept of most.

Palliative is improvement of the quality of life while there is life. 

There are 4 levels of hospice care.

.  1) Routine home care

  2)Continues home care

  3)Continue in patient care


 Yes, some recovers and be on remission to up to six months more or less. Then they are discharged and live at home or to a long term facility, the nurses and home support will come to your home and do nursing care for you Staffs in this facilities are specialized care. The staff seat down and listen to your concerns, including legal matters, but their priorities are comfort and quality of life. compassion, empathy caring are shown on their faces. 

This is a very specialized nursing line. That is like OB Gynecoloy nursing, psychiatric, and neonatal. 

This is my second admission in a hospice. In my case it is for respite. ( I get away from difficult situations and reduce discomfort.)

I’m not on regular pain killer but the rest and the peaceful setting is good environment and helped me to clear my mind and have a good relationship with my children, cause they get hurt when they see me suffering. 

According to the doctor my CTscan showed that the metastatic tumours in the jungs are stable.

When an elderly or not so elderly goes to a long term, palliative or hospice care, it does not mean that your children  don’t want to take care of you. That it is their obligation to care for the parent. They go to places like these to get help for their pain and discomfort. Your loved ones don’t really know what to do when you are in distressed. In these facilities they are professionals and they give you medicines to alleviate your pain. 

Some families who have nurses in the family (a mother for example) does not want home support cause she is a nurse. To the patient, you are his mother and more lax with the care you as a mother will giving your sick love one and not as your nurse. So your care is not the same as the healing care given by an outside professional nurse.

My husband was a doctor but never given his family medical care. He calls his colleagues. He said it is unprofessional and against his conscience. He in turnered was called to see and care for a colleague’ love one. If something not right happens he will blame himself forever.

Palliative is to alleviate pain

Hospice is near death, does not mean you’ll die soon, some go into remission.

Both are experiencing pain.

Both are not giving up.

Both are not hopeless. These is to spend your last days in happy and comfortable life if they die. You also get some couseling if you want- now that I came for respite it is not “ bad” to die. It is a part of your existence in this life. Imagine if human being does not pass away. God is The supreme supernatural “ being”who thought of all these, made it a happy place for creations of His to enjoy!

What are we humanity doing to it ?

I talk openly here about how I feel, death, life, my happy life with Paul.  My fears, and suddenly I am not afraid as when Paul passed away. (my poor darling) My children does not want to talk about death, but they know what will happen eventually.So I let it be. With in, we understand each other. We have a family weekly meeting just to keep in touch. Since the pandemic we have not seen each other. Technology’s very helpful. I’m going to keep adding to this post.ignore if you get tired.

Yes, diseases are rampaging this life. It’s up to humanity to reverse it. Medicine mostly comes from plants and then modern times chemicals and other living animals are used, radiations, and other means. Some are safe and  some are toxic to the human flesh. So science and and epidemiology is searching the best way to cure, prevent and irradiate diseases. 

For the meantime, we human being are experimenting the best way to hold on to life. “Hit and miss” . More years to come when the time comes to “hit.” 

There are new diseases coming out from somewhere. Mutation from the old,  growth from the environment that human pollutes and more.

3:30 pm. March 8, 2021

   I have been sleeping all afternoon. My body is in pieces. My spirit, broken, my strength almost exhausted. 

I pause and I had a conversation with my CREATOR. I don’t exactly know what we talked about but it will be okay.

I was given a couple of plain Tylenol to take the pain away. 

What will I do? I feel so helpless and I’ll just lay here and wait for tonight.

The nurse in charge came in to talk to me. I was so much in pain and I was can’t hear what she is saying. Take a big breathe, slowly out through your mouth, then I’m myself again. 

We talked and she hears about my very intense discomfort and pain. Asked me what will relieve the pain and so far,there is none yet. I was given the remedies from the Cancer Agency. Unfortunately there is none. I used them all. I started my meal and with all that hindrance I just put food in my mouth and chew , swallow. Done. Now my pills- a dozen of them . One at a time, careful not to choke on it. Remember you did twice.

My daughter and my grandson came, I have to show on a happy face. Smile, don’t look so miserable, 

Visiting hours for them are over. Work tomorrow.

Today March 9,2021

My mouth pain seems at ease. Must be the mint free tooth paste. 

The nurse in charge came in and let me know and get my okay if I agree to take a little stronger pain medicine. I agreed.

I was discharged from Lions Gate after surgery and was fallowed up by home care(?). My daughter works in Sechelt Hospital and referred me to the system. The home care came to her house and inspect if it is safe for me to have a shower, (grab handles) etc.when I moved to the city I was transferred to the coastal healthcare services and they took over my care. I had no problem. I was provided with my needs. I have side rails, commode if I need, bath ladies, I even have cleaning people (I pay).

The Hospice where I go is government and they sometimes get respite if bed is available, (the Cottage where I am now)and Granville ( I was asked to leave as the bed was needed for end of life. My nurse is a very insistent nurse!!

From a professional care giver to the care taker

It’s another beautiful day and I’m here just looking over the water, and that’s enough for me.

March 9 at 2:42 PM

Tue 2:42 PM

Clara sent March 9 at 4:08 PM

Lion’s Gate Hospital  surgery

I was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. In three weeks I will be scheduled for the removal of the cancerous kidney.

Patients with life threatening diagnosis become anxious, and scared, and don’t know what had happened. This is also the beginning of an ordeal to the hospital where I’ll have the surgery. In my days as a professional nurse, patients are admitted before surgery,  one day at least. Preparation starts, by pre op teaching, by a nurse, interview with doctors, anesthesiologist, lab works. Heart tracing, and all necessary procedure. 

Instead, for one week I went back to that hospital every day to have all this done. Back and forth. I’m getting very anxious and scared. The medical team seem not to mind the patient’s feeling. So the day before surgery, my daughter and I stayed in a hotel nearby just in case we will be called to go to the O R. Besides we are coming from the Sunshine Coast. We were called in the near afternoon and so we arrived in the hospital and told to wait in a waiting room with easy chairs. We waited until after lunch. I was told to walk to the operating room. 

The routine of calming the patient, giving sedatives and other means are no longer done. Is this normal? Patients are now just a “ product”? 

So I woke up in a little room and was transferred to my 4 – bedroom ward with men. 

The plan was I’ll go home the next day but somehow I was transferred to a 2 bedroom and was discharged on my second this facility , no help was-given or information of what to do if something goes wrong.

My daughter and I drove to the Sunshine Coast and I was sick on the way. That night, she called 911 and I was brought to the Hospital in Sechelt.  I stayed for a week and was referred to the social services and help came in.

Her house was inspected that I am safe when walking around, shower lady came, nurse come and when I moved to the city all the services that I was getting were all transferred to Vancouver. 

My visiting nurse made the request and my grandson or my daughter will pick them up from the Red Cross.

There are agencies I was referred to. The Nancy  Han for out- patients palliative care. Cancer support group. They are all very helpful.

(To be continued)


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