Joan Payne lives close to her niece and nephew, near a lake just outside Paw Paw. She’s being treated there by a Centrica Care Navigators care team. She enjoys the water, the outdoors… and especially the sky.
For years, Joan flew hot air balloons. She first took to the air in 1984, on a safari ride across Kenya. It thrilled her so much she wanted to pilot a balloon herself, and she earned her private and commercial balloon pilot’s license.
Joan was nicknamed “Hot Lips!”
Her goal at first was to return to Kenya, and fly a 300,000-cubic-foot balloon capable of carrying 12 passengers. But it was during her pilot training in California that she met Orville, who would come to the desert at 4:30 a.m. to help ready the balloons for their first flight of the day two hours later.
Joan liked that he was so willing to help. She also liked Orville. They married in a Native American ceremony and lived in California for the next five years. They then moved to Colorado, and that’s where Joan learned about hospice.
Joan and Orville married in 1988.
Discovering end-of-life care
Orville was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and was in hospice in Colorado. Joan says two books he gave her helped her during his care: “Gentle Closings: How to Say Goodbye to Someone You Love” and “After Goodbye: How to Begin Again After the Death of Someone You Love,” both by Ted Menton.
In 2018, Joan entered hospice herself, becoming a patient at Centrica Care Navigators. She says Orville’s time in hospice showed her how it could help. She says she wants to spend her time doing the things she wants to and is still capable of doing. She can do the things she loves to do, instead of simply waiting until it’s time to die.
“I asked to be transferred into hospice so that I could work with my nurse on the medications that have helped me, and we’ve got it to where my pain is under control,” Joan says. “I’m still able to do things, although I’m not as strong as I used to be and there are changes happening that are out of my control.”
Guides through the journey
Her Centrica Care Navigators care team includes her case manager, Larry Anthony, Dr. Raphelson, Dr. Seagle, and her social worker, Carly.
“I need people to know what a blessing they all are,” Joan says. “They listen and help me through my fear. People need to understand what a wonderful staff is there to guide you through your journey. Hospice is not just about dying, it’s for living.”
Joan at home in 2021.
Joan says she’s glad to be able to tell her story. She says her end-of life journey is just like flying a hot air balloon: You have to deal with many challenges and perform some tricky maneuvers.
“I will land at some point,” she says. “The ending will be soft, and I’ll be in a better place.”
A hot air balloon in flight.
Our Mission is to guide and support individuals and their caregivers coping with illness, aging, dying, and loss by providing compassionate medical, emotional, spiritual, and personal care.