VALPARAISO — Snow was falling and temperatures were dropping Thursday, but a little warmth entered the Guerra home that morning. The family received a Christmas tree from Bring Hope Home for the Holidays, a program for lung cancer patients.
Francisco Guerra, 65, was diagnosed in January with stage IV lung cancer that has since metastasized into his liver and sternum. To help brighten the Guerras’ holiday, six volunteers delivered a six-foot Christmas tree, complete with ornaments, lighting and candy canes.
“This is nice,” the U.S. Air Force veteran said, “that other people care and do things like this.”
Bring Hope Home for the Holidays is a new national program developed by the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. The program’s focus is to lift the spirits of lung cancer patients and recognize that lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the U.S.
Since his diagnosis, Guerra has undergone eight rounds of chemotherapy, with one more round later this month. Afterward, doctors will perform a CT scan to see if chemo treatments are working.
The Guerra family is looking forward to a busy holiday season. Married 37 years, Francisco and Marie Guerra have six children, 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
Family ties have made a big difference for Guerra, a nonsmoker who had been suffering chest pains for a long time before receiving the cancer diagnosis.
“When I was first diagnosed, I was in so much pain, I just wanted to give up,” said Guerra, who then thought of his family.
“Their love makes me fight harder,” Guerra continued. “They come around these days, just to check in on me, and they help out a lot. They keep saying, ‘We’re going to fight it, we’re going to beat it.’ They are so encouraging, and that makes me feel stronger.”
The volunteers who delivered the Guerras’ tree also brought holiday music, which added to the Christmas theme in the den.
“It’s wonderful,” Marie Guerra said.
“I love the tree,” added youngest daughter Angie Guerra.
Francisco Guerra said he’s looking forward this holiday to “get rid of this cancer and have a good time with the family.”
He added, “It’s wonderful to have such caring people in the world. Cancer is a difficult thing to live with, so the gift I am receiving from Bring Hope Home for the Holidays and the love of my family mean so much to me.”
Bonnie J. Addario, founder and chairperson of the foundation that bears her name, is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed 14 years ago. The foundation promotes awareness of the need for more lung cancer research and helps lung cancer patients navigate the healthcare system.
“Bring Hope Home for the Holidays is a seasonal reminder that we need to provide loving support to people fighting this leading cancer killer,” Addario said in a statement. “Our goal is to transform lung cancer into a chronically managed disease and eventually find a cure.”
As for Guerra, he supports yearly check-ups. “Don’t wait until you’re feeling sick to see a doctor, because that might be too late.”