Cristina M

Cristina M., MA

Hi, my name is Cristina Menezes and my story is about my sweet dad, Juan Rodrigues. 

My dad was diagnosed with limited stage small-cell lung cancer on my 32nd birthday (August 3 2020). I still remember him telling me it was like his world stopped when he heard the news. My dad was a healthy 59-year-old, full of life. After the diagnosis my dad began chemotherapy followed by radiation. A week after starting chemotherapy my dad developed a blood clot in his chest which traveled to his leg. After having emergency surgery, they were able to save his leg.

My dad was so grateful. My dad was a roofing foreman for a company that he considered family. Of course, once he finished his first round of chemotherapy he returned back to work. During this time he had his first scans. We received news that the initial tumor in his lung did shrink, however the cancer spread to his spine and now he was considered Stage IV.

This didn’t get my dad down though. He refused radiation at the time because he had no pain. His oncologist then changed his treatment to immunotherapy only. A few weeks after Christmas my dad had more scans. It showed growth on his bones, and the news my dad took the worst: brain mets. My dad started to get excruciating bone pain and it was hard to walk, he had severe neuropathy in his left hand, drop foot, double vision and had to use a walker.

Immediately he started radiation to the spine. His radiation oncologist wanted to start whole brain radiation at the same time but I opted to wait until they were able to do whole brain radiation with hippocampus sparing to protect his memory. His oncologist also changed his immunotherapy and added in second line of chemo.

Well, fast forward and he has completed all the radiation like a champ and started physical therapy at home three times per week because he is now wheelchair-bound. He pushed himself everyday, and even when PT wasn’t there, my husband and I had our own therapy routines with him.

My dad started feeling unwell and struggled to to breathe, so we postponed treatments. Eventually my dad started hallucinating and we called 911. My dad had pneumonia, and was septic. His brain scan came back clear which wasn’t a surprise to us because his vision improved, his bone scans came back showing fractures due to the tumors, but it showed even more progression and was now in his liver.

My dad did get better before my dad got very ill and passed. My dad was such a strong man, and for the 11 months my dad fought, he was extremely positive. Anytime his brother or a friend would call him, he would say he was getting better and hopefully be back to work and driving his new car soon. The few breakdowns my dad had were so devastating, but up until his very last day, my dad looked at me and said “Please don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere”.

I never realized how quickly life could change and I never expected something like this to happen to my dad. My dad passed 11 months after he was diagnosed and three months before his 40th wedding anniversary. We miss him so much.

First Published: November 9, 2021

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