Below is a story a patient shared with me about how he went from being against mask-wearing to wearing one every day.
Last year, my mom died from stage 4 lung cancer. Before she passed, she received her transplant at this hospital, but it was too late for her.
Now, I am fighting cancer. Lymphoma. Stage 2 verging on Stage 3.
Before my diagnosis last summer, I never wore a mask. I walked around like the virus wasn’t here, and I felt free not wearing a cloth mask, N95, or what have you. I just hated the idea of these mask mandates and being told to do with my body. It’s my right to choose whether or not to wear a mask and to take on the consequences because it was my choice.
But, not long before my diagnosis, I started getting sick. Real sick. Lung infections landed me in the hospital a few times, which led to my lymphoma diagnosis. I went into shock at some point and nearly didn’t make it. But, by the grace of the God above, I’m here in front of you as best as I can stand on my own two feet.
Now, I religiously wear this N95 mask every time I step out of the door because I can’t afford to get COVID. I have an 8-year-old boy, and I have to be here for him and to beat both my cancer and this pandemic. I need to be his dad, do dad things with him, and tell me if I sound crazy, but I want to see him reach milestones. Graduations, moving out to college, and even marriage down the road. My son is the number one reason I decided to buy masks and wear them.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely hate wearing this mask. It’s stupid. I honestly don’t know how nurses and doctors can wear these for hours on end. It’s genuinely hard to breathe, and I find myself reaching for the nearest wall to catch my breath before walking again.
But, I have to wear this mask for my son. I am taking a chemo pill right now, and I’m told it’s doing what it needs to do so far. Other treatment options are on the horizon, but the one thing every doctor is telling me is that I must do my very best in between appointments to keep myself as healthy as I can.
That means I must wear this green, funny-looking, sometimes suffocating N95 mask to protect myself from COVID. To protect my family.
I know that if I am in the hospital with COVID, I will die. And my son will have only his mom to support and love him. I can never let that happen because he is my world, and I know he looks up to me in everything that I do in this life.
I am hoping my story will encourage others to wear their mask. I know how you feel. We all have the freedom to choose. But, if you have anyone that you love in your life, you must protect their health and well-being—wearing a mask is like wearing a seatbelt, both designed to protect you and others around you.
Ton La, Jr. is a medical student and can be reached on LinkedIn.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com