In June 2018, my family’s world was thrown off-balance when our beloved matriarch – my then 70-year-old mom – was diagnosed seemingly out of the blue with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. Overnight, our focus shifted away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to tending to her exploding medical needs, from endless hospital stays and doctor appointments to long talks with her and each other discussing the best path forward. We’ve never been a family to take anything lying down; we were prepared to do whatever necessary to save her. By saving her, we were saving us because she was and is the roots to our tree.

It has been a rough nearly two years; however, the bright spots have miraculously outshined the dim ones. Her condition has been stable for the past many months and we’ve celebrated numerous happy occasions together, including my brother’s wedding (pictured here) and the birth of his first child. We even went on a family trip in early February, during which my mom’s energy surpassed everybody else’s. Her health has improved by leaps and bounds. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that she has cancer. 

Much of this is made possible by her maintenance treatment. She has been responding amazingly to chemotherapy, which followed a couple rounds of radiation. Her life depends on the infusions she gets like clockwork every three weeks. What drips into her veins is liquid magic.

Then, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic happened. COVID-19 is a lung infection and, as such, people who have a pre-existing lung disease are at higher risk for severe complications if they contract it. This places my mom squarely in the danger zone. So, just when she was feeling like herself again, my siblings and I had to sternly ground her and our dad. They were understandably eager to resume their lives filled with card games and date nights with friends. For the time being, though, these social activities are taking place via web conference… and they’re enjoying it!

The one constant that has remained is my mom’s treatment. Until now. At her last infusion, she was informed they’ll pause for a while (likely a six-week increment versus the normal three weeks). The prospect of visiting the hospital during the impending surge is simply too dangerous. For the very first time, the risks of receiving chemotherapy outweigh the benefits. It’s difficult to wrap our heads around, but we get it. Her team of healthcare providers is unwilling to take the chance of potentially exposing her to COVID-19 since the outcome could be dire. Her routine scans are similarly put on hold. We’re left waiting and wondering.

Still, in our hearts, we know this is only a temporary setback and a small price to pay for her continued safety. That’s life: always changing. It’s how you handle the challenges that defines you. My mom taught me well.

Webinar: COVID-19 and Chronic Lung Disease

Every Monday at 1 p.m. CT, our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Albert Rizzo, will provide information on COVID-19 and recommendations for people with chronic lung disease and their caregivers. Register for the webinars in advance and watch recorded updates from previous weeks.

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