Carlos Rivera, age 49, of Hazlet, New Jersey has always had a positive outlook on life. It’s helped him through the best and most challenging of times. Right now, he and his loving wife Della are working together to fight his lung cancer. Even with his diagnosis, he tries hard to stay energized and forward thinking for his two adult children, as both of them are at important stages in their young lives: his daughter is now in the nursing program at the University of Delaware and his son will enter law school next September.
Carlos is doing everything he can to stay alive to see them graduate, because while their education is a big deal for them, it might even be a bigger deal for Carlos himself. He wants to be sure they don’t stop their education, just because he’s been laid low with cancer. “Carlos sometimes starts questioning if the pain and suffering from the treatments is worth it,” Della said.
“He pushes through those feelings, though, because he really wants to see the kids graduate.”
“Plus, we had a lot of plans for this part of our lives together, and we’re both praying we can still do them eventually.”
Carlos’s cancer story started like many similar stories: A nagging cough that just wouldn’t go away. He was treated for allergies for quite a few months, but as the pressure in his chest increased, his doctor eventually did an x-ray, then a CAT scan. In July 2016 they identified a 10-centimeter stage-IIIB small-cell tumor in his lung, and immediately began to aggressively treat this extremely malignant form of lung cancer. In addition to radiation and chemotherapy treatments, Carlos also underwent preventive radiation, to keep the cancer from spreading to his brain.
The treatment worked well at first, sending Carlos into remission for five months. Then the doctors found a new tumor growing in his lung.
Their options were more limited, since it came back so soon. Because surgery is not called for, he’s now on a clinical drug trial; but that trial comes with a host of bad effects.
“Life for him – for us – is very difficult right now,” Della said. “It seems like every minute of every day brings something related to cancer. Whether he’s physically sick or in pain or struggling emotionally, it’s just not an easy thing to deal with. And you don’t get a break from it, either. Cancer surrounds you physically and emotionally. And with this kind of prognosis, everything we’ve hoped and planned for has been brought to a standstill.”
Still Della is doing anything and everything she can do for him. “It’s so hard seeing somebody you love in that much agony,” she said. “I think remaining positive and having a good attitude plays a big role in recovery, but we are both realists, so being sunny and upbeat is sometimes a struggle.”
“Then again, when you’re so down all the time, there are times you realize you just have to pull yourself up,” she continued. “You just get so low, you feel like there’s nothing lower, so you have to look for any positive thing that can get you through the day. We just keep trying to look on the bright side and dream of beating this disease together.”
The power of positive thinking is certainly helping them through most challenging time.