Dennis Bennett: Pain control care returned him to active life

February 2012

Dennis Bennett says it took hospice care to give him back his life.

“Three years ago in December, I was so sick from the medicine I was receiving in a clinical trial, I didn’t think I could take it anymore,” recalls the retired travel business professional. “A friend of mine from my men’s group at church visited and he said ‘You know, you don’t have to live with this.’” The friend was Chuck Fontenot, a Mission Hospice & Home Care volunteer.

“I’d tried so many things over the past 12 years since my diagnosis,” said Bennett, who has prostate cancer that has spread to his bones. “So I was ready to try hospice. Within 48 hours, the situation had changed almost 180 degrees. Methadone made all the difference.”

Vicki Bennett says hospice care not only manages her husband’s pain, but makes their life much easier in other ways. “We were spending half our life in the car going to the doctor or the pharmacy,” she said, “but all of a sudden, everything came to us. If we need something, it comes here. We don’t have to travel to get it.”

Since starting hospice care, the couple has been to Hawaii, and Dennis moved his mother into an assisted living facility, cleaning out her home and manning a garage sale. His mother, Dorothy, was in Mission Hospice’s Transitions (pre-hospice) program, receiving a volunteer visitor, until she died in January at age 99.

Dennis, who will be 74 in May, grew up on the Peninsula, where he met Vicki when she was a United Airlines stewardess from Alaska. His father met her parents in Juneau and suggested that Dennis should meet her.

“He knocked at my door one night and I thought he was selling pots and pans, so I wasn’t very nice,” Vicki recalls. Dennis was persistent and they were married a year later in San Mateo, 50 years ago this coming March.

They moved to Hawaii, where their three children were born. Eventually, they returned to the Peninsula, moving into the San Carlos home they occupied for 36 years.

Dennis worked in a business his father had started with concessions at airports. At the height of the business in the 1980s, the family had gift shops, insurance and general service counters in 78 airports, as well as the lockers at Grand Central Station in New York. Vicki handled the books and Dennis worked the people side, he said. Dennis, who also ran Mercury Travel in Burlingame, has finished a book about his travel career. Over the years, he also served on the SamTrans board of directors and as a volunteer fireman.

He still drives his beloved 1959 MG on days when he’s not taking morphine in addition to the methadone, and he still has a nightly martini. He and Vicki enjoy time with their children and eight grandchildren and continue to travel when they can.

They were planning a trip to Hawaii a week or so after the interview. Mission Hospice had already made arrangements with a hospice in Maui to step in if they

needed anything.

“I know everyone is different,” says Dennis, “but please Mission Hospice, don’t ever go away. People like me really need you.