Marc Vera was never the same after his longtime boyfriend, Jeff, died of cancer in 2011. He was working as a high-paid advertising executive at the time, but the unimaginable loss convinced him to quit his job and become a hospice nurse instead.
Vera hated to see Jeff in pain while he was being treated at a hospice facility. Jeff’s parents wanted their son to be on as few meds as possible so he would be awake and alert, but that left Jeff in horrible pain, said Vera.
“He was very agitated the last six to eight hours of his life,” Marc said. “That will always make me mad.”
But he didn’t decide to change careers just because his partner experienced pain at the end of his life. He was also taken aback by the kindness and generosity of the nurses on staff.
In a recent interview for The Tennessean, he talks about what it was like to go to the hospice facility nearly every day when Jeff was dying of cancer.
“We made really good friends with the nurses there, and any time he had to go inpatient, like talking to the nurses, that’s when, for me, the wheels started rolling in my head, you know that I want my life to mean something,” Marc said while tearing up.
“I want to make a difference in people’s lives and help them through the hard times. And I saw these oncology nurses and that’s what they did with their work, helping folks, getting chemo. The regular nurses helping them get through it. And that at the back of my head, I think had the idea that hospice is what I want to do,” Vera added.
He talked about how much he appreciated having the nurses around when Jeff was nearing the end.
“I’ve been on a message board throughout all this time for pancreatic cancer, so I was connecting with those folks too, and they would talk about how great the hospice nurses were and how that you became a part of their family and how they became close, so when it was time for hospice for Jeff, I paid a lot of attention to everyone that came. It was really important to me to keep going.”
Ultimately, his decision was about helping others go through the process of losing a loved one.
“And I think to honor Jeff’s legacy, for me, is some of it too and try to get his story out when I’m with families now and let them know that they can get through this.”
“I just didn’t want to see people go through that kind of pain,” he added. “So, for me, a lot of the crux of getting into hospice was being able to help people realize that there are avenues. It’s gonna be hard, and it’s gonna be difficult but eventually you’ll come through to the other side. Life will be different, but it can still be beautiful.”