Francisco Guerra, 65, of Valparaiso, Indiana is used to defending not just family and friends, but his country. A former Air Force veteran diagnosed with lung cancer less than a year ago, he is now getting used to others looking out for him.
To help him through the holidays, Bring Hope Home program volunteers will deliver a Christmas tree on December 14 to brighten his spirits and add some sparkle to his home.
“My wife has been my right arm though all of this,” he said, his voice weak from chemo and his breathing labored from the disease. “She drives me to chemo, makes sure I’m taking medications on time, and just keeps everything under control, even when things seem uncontrollable. My son has been taking on my former duties, mowing the lawn and helping around the house.
“I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Francisco’s daughters have stepped up too, taking him to his doctor’s appointments, spending the night when he feels especially badly, and making sure he knows that they are there to “fight this cancer together, and we won’t stop until we beat it!” His son, who lives in Colorado, has also visited several times this year with his wife and children.
They had not seen each other in a long time, so in one sense the disease has brought the family closer together.
Francisco has a positive attitude about his disease now, but it wasn’t always the case in the beginning. “When I was first diagnosed, I was in so much pain, I just wanted to give up,” he said, “Then I started thinking about my family – especially the kids. Their love makes me fight harder. They come around these days just to check in on me, and they help out a lot. They keep saying, ‘we’re gonna fight it, we’re gonna beat it!’ They are so encouraging for me and that makes me feel stronger.”
Although he was suffering from chest pain for a long time, he was a non-smoker and never envisioned that he might have lung cancer. He does worry about the many years he worked “in a cloud of fumes” at a local chemical plant, since many of his co-workers have since died of cancer and other ailments.
After several doctor visits in Chicago, one of his daughters finally convinced the VA to perform further tests in January 2017. Those initial tests revealed a very high white blood-cell count. A week later, he was informed he had stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized into his liver and sternum.
He has since undergone eight rounds of chemotherapy.
He has one more round left to go in December, after which the doctors will perform a CT scan to see if the cancer has progressed, or if the chemo treatments are working. Francisco has a very sobering piece of advice to others: “Always go to your yearly check-up. Don’t wait until you’re feeling sick to see a doctor – because that might be too late.”
“It’s wonderful to have such caring people in the world,” Francisco said. “Cancer is a difficult thing to live with, so the gift I am receiving from Bring Hope Home and the love of my family means so much to me.
Francisco has learned to be on the receiving end of care this year and for that he is grateful.