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Easing end-of-life suffering

August 16, 2022 | UCI Health
Domenica LoCascio enjoys spending time in her late mother's beloved garden.
"Dr. Kong and her team focused on providing relief from symptoms and giving my mother a dignified, peaceful end to her beautiful life," says Domenica LoCascio, who enjoys spending time in her mother's beloved Laguna Niguel garden. Photo by Kimberly Pham for UCI Health

In March 2021, Josephine LoCascio, 86, began experiencing memory loss and weakness in her legs. She had been in great health and enjoyed going to church, gardening, walking and socializing with her Laguna Niguel neighbors, friends and family.

An imaging scan revealed a glioblastoma on her brain. Her community hospital physicians recommended radiation therapy. Her daughter, Domenica LoCascio, felt they first needed to understand all her mother's options and discuss her case with brain tumor experts to make an informed decision.

They were referred to the UCI Health Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program, where they met with neuro-oncologist Dr. Xiao-Tang Kong. The visit was pivotal in helping the family navigate the remaining months of Josephine LoCascio's long and dignified life.

Domenica LoCascio describes the care her mother received:

"When my mother and I met with Dr. Kong, she very quickly realized how vibrant my mother was and that she had lived a very healthy, full and blessed life.

"Dr. Kong described in great detail the various treatments that could extend her life. She also explained that the side effects of aggressive chemo and radiation therapy, given her age, may affect the quality of life my mom wanted to maintain.

"After careful discussion, we decided not to pursue aggressive treatment. Dr. Kong respected our decision and over the next nine months, she and her team managed my mother’s illness with steroids and palliative care to ease her pain.

Domenica LoCascio keeps her late mother's memorial mass program alongside a photo of her mother and father in traditional Sicilian wedding garb.
Josephine LoCascio's memorial mass program and her wedding photo in traditional Sicilian dress have an honored place in Domenica LoCascio's home.

"We were lucky to live near the new UCI Health cancer facility in Laguna Hills.
The nurses there were so responsive and supportive. This was important to me because I didn’t want my mother to suffer or be scared through this last journey of her life. They were genuinely concerned about her daily quality of life.

"Dr. Kong was very supportive of our decision to not do radiation or chemotherapy and wanted to be a part of the process.

"I had never heard of palliative care before. I am thankful to the nurse who helped us through the shock of diagnosis and the realization that I could not change the outcome. Dr. Kong and her team focused on providing relief from symptoms and giving my mother a dignified, peaceful end to her beautiful life.

"She enjoyed time with her four grandsons and my brother, who was able to be with her for the last few months. We attended Mass together and watched TV together. We celebrated holidays with family including Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as her birthday. She slept in her own bed until the end.

"We had the peace of mind of knowing we made the right decision for her. 

"We are so grateful for the support and care she received. As a UCI alum, I already had a connection and wanted to show my appreciation. I made a donation to the brain tumor program, which was matched 100% by my employer, and I asked others who knew and loved my mother to honor her life by donating to UCI Health and Dr. Kong’s research."

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