Portia B

Portia B., OH

“Portia, I want to do this.” These were the exact words from my mother (Sharonne L. Lopez) as she handed me the flier from the counter. It was another routine check up for her lungs. After finishing the registration process, I wheeled her to a space in the lobby away from the main crowd. I took a moment to read the flier. A walk in honor of lung health from the American Lung Association. My mother never asked to participate in any such events, but I took her asking like a little child announcing they found $20 on the ground. Little did I know, saying yes to this event, would be the first and last time we’d participate as a mother-daughter team.

We made it to the Great Lakes Science Center at seven in the morning on September 18th, 2021 for the Lung Force Walk. My mother had her walker along with two spare oxygen tanks. Her pace was slow, but the excitement in her heart made others think different. I brought my camera along to document the day. This was a day of celebration for her. It was time to kick off the walk. I stayed with mom in case I would need to push her in the walker. The military strength from Sgt. Lopez (mom served in the army) did not require an ounce of assistance from me. Mom paced herself and stopped during certain points to catch her breath. Several individuals and staff members from The American Lung Association would stop to ask if she needed help. Her common response was “I’m catching my breath” or “Give me one minute, Baby”. I saw the determination in her face to complete this walk with oxygen running through her nose and her walker for support. The saying goes, she believed it and achieved it.

My mother’s journey began with her lung cancer diagnosis in 2018. She had a CT scan a few weeks prior that showed a spot on her right lung. The doctor recommended a biopsy to confirm if the spot was cancerous or benign. We scheduled the appointment right away despite my mother wanting to ignore it. I’m grateful for the access to our local hospitals because scheduling and availability can add unwanted stress. I took my mother in for her appointment and waited in the lobby. Once the procedure was completed, the doctor came out and confirmed Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Stage 3A. I recall for a moment how my heart began to sink, but I brought myself back to a space of gratitude. I said thank you to the doctor and I shared with my mom that we would be on this train together.

Post the biopsy, it was time to meet with the oncologist to go over her treatment plan. The goal was four segments of chemotherapy and then a month break before radiation. Both my mother and myself agreed on the plan. We felt the doctor gave a thorough explanation of the entire process which helped ease not only my mom’s anxiety, but also my own. Her chemo appointments were scheduled in a series on the same day every 4 weeks. I always took my mother to her appointments and my brother picked her up in the afternoon. I’m thankful that my place of employment, at the time, was very accommodating of my schedule.

The final chemo treatment was checked off in my planner. It was November 29th, 2018 (the day before my birthday), that we would celebrate mom’s victory. One mountain on this journey with her had been conquered. During one of her follow up visits, the doctor’s noticed a shift in her oxygen levels. My mother was not getting enough oxygen based on her test results. They decided to prescribe my mother supplemental oxygen where she could use it at her leisure. I remember the oxygen company bringing several different sized tanks (portable) along with the at home concentrator. My house at one point reminded me of the science experiments broadcasted all over the mainstream television networks. Anyone know where Albert Einstein’s offspring are located?

My mother’s journey through radiation resulted in her need for supplemental oxygen. Post the final radiation appointment, the doctor gave her the “all clear” for cancer being in her system. We cheered and celebrated another victory for mom. I remember the phone call as though it happened yesterday. In my phone, I have March 1st listed as my mom’s cancer remission date. I celebrate this victory (now in honor of my beloved mother) to show others the power of perseverance, support and there is an opportunity within every obstacle.

Being a caregiver of my beloved mother for the last four years taught me the importance of gratitude and need for continued advocacy. My mother’s journey (now she can rest peacefully) opened a door for me to share her story and encourage others through their cancer journey as patients or caregivers. My beloved mother and myself were a team, which aided in her well-being during the thick of her treatments. If my mother did not receive a biopsy when the doctor recommended, the time with my mother would have been cut shorter. My hope for years to come is the access to lung screenings, healthcare and additional resources will result in more successful outcomes.

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