A few weeks ago, a social media trend asked who we are staying home for during the coronavirus pandemic. While many loved ones come to mind, the first person for me is Marisa Sullivan.
Marisa is a journalist, actress, and successful businesswoman, and now she is battling an aggressive form of breast cancer– all during the coronavirus pandemic. If you have read my blog or know me, you know I’ve achieved my dream of becoming an entertainment journalist. Well, my resume landed in Marisa’s email, and it was she who gave me that chance. And now it’s time we give Marisa a chance.
I am sharing Marisa’s story of strength with you. If you worry during the pandemic, you can find courage through her. If you disagree with quarantine, you can put a face to this cause. It’s time to find a greater purpose to stay home.
This is her story:
Marisa was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer on November 15, 2019. Four days later, on her 40th birthday, she learned it had rapidly progressed to Stage II Grade 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer, one of the most aggressive types. Four months later & countless chemo treatments, the world went on coronavirus lockdown.
Marisa says it was the last thing she could have expected, “I had been doing so great with my cancer diagnosis and treatment, and now THIS?!”
Her cancer journey began earlier this year when she accidentally found a lump.
“I just randomly put my hand right on it unconsciously while laying in bed. It all happened so quickly,” she shared.
There was a 15-20% chance that the tumor would be cancerous, and even less of a chance that it was triple negative, one of the most aggressive kinds.
She explained, “It went from a Stage 1, you’ll be fine no big deal, we’ll do a lumpectomy to “you have to do chemo for 5 months first then we’ll do the surgery. That was hard.”
But more challenging moments were yet to come.
“The hardest part of my diagnosis was being told that I may not be able to have kids and was urged to act fast and freeze my eggs since chemo can destroy everything,” She adds, “After being told I had to start chemo immediately due to an aggressive tumor, there is a high chance it has already spread, I had to navigate if it was worth taking time to freeze my eggs.”
Although time was not on her side, Marisa’s team of doctors felt she could safely wait a month to freeze her eggs. She took the risk.
“All the blood tests and office visits and hormone injections were intense. I can handle things emotionally and physically pretty well, but when your hormone levels are being messed with, and you have no control over your body and mind, it’s pretty tough,” Marisa revealed.
But Marisa prevailed through the riggers of freezing her eggs, and her cancer did not progress further. Next, it was onto her treatment: five months of chemotherapy.
Most people picture a cancer patient as tired and sick, but Marisa decided to take on a positive mindset.
“I wanted to prove to others and myself that living with cancer didn’t have to be this death sentence thing. I really feel the word has such a bad stigma that it is also partly mental. “Oh, I’m on chemo. I’m supposed to be laid out, sick, decrepit, weak.” Hell no, I was not going to let that happen to me. I still went out here and there, I still could put on makeup and look hot, I still could throw on a bikini, I was not going to give in to the downer side of chemo and cancer.”
And that she did; I am so inspired seeing Marisa so strong. While she has many hard days, she proves that a positive mindset is a crucial healing factor.
Her strength radiates as she shares, “Doctors have been shocked, and I am often told that no one has ever witnessed someone doing this well, and this upbeat while on chemo.”
On her 12th week of treatment, against the odds, she felt great! She had almost reached the finish line… and then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and everything went dark. What did this mean for her treatment?
“I am screwed if I get this,” She revealed, “I were to get this thing, I would not be able to get chemo or get my tumor removed. That is the scary part. Not to mention there is a chance I could die, of course.”
Chemotherapy not only kills the bad cells in our body, but it also kills the white blood cells, the ones that fight off infection like the coronavirus.
Marisa is at high risk, but she still stands strong.
She wants you to know, “I am a fighter, and I will do whatever it takes to survive. I have not come this far and gone through all I have with freezing my eggs and five months of treatment only to be taken down by the coronavirus.”
It’s a healthy mindset like hers that proves why she did so well during chemo. I look at Marisa and think, this is why it’s so essential for me to social distance and stay home. If she can be strong, so can I. Yet, as I write this, we are over one month into quarantine, and there have been several protests to open the world back up.
I hear people say things such as it only affects those with weakened immune systems. Well, what are cancer patients doing during the coronavirus pandemic?
There’s also another critical point that people are forgetting: The overwhelmed hospitals filled with Covid-19 patients. This means people like Marisa run the risk of getting their life-saving surgeries postponed.
“If chemo hasn’t killed all my cancer cells, that’s not good. Stuck with an aggressive type of cancer amidst a global pandemic is not the greatest situation.” She says, “The Covid-19 patients are priority right now, and it’s the whole “save many over one” thought process, I’m sure. There is nothing that I can really control right now.
But there is something we can control.
Yes, YOU reading this. We can stay at home. We can make a difference. By staying home, you help people like Marisa stay healthy. You can stop hospitals from becoming overwhelmed so they can perform other life-saving treatments, like Marisa’s lumpectomy.
Marisa has been nothing short of an inspiration. Her final chemo session was on April 21, 2020. She had a photoshoot at the hospital in a red dress and heels to celebrate. Now she’s about one month away from her surgery.
If she can be strong, so can we. Like Marisa, we cannot change the situation we are in, but we can change how we react to it. I hope that giving this cause a face will inspire you to stay home and be strong like Marisa. That is why I choose to stay home for Marisa Sullivan.