“You Can Do Hard Things” – A Story of Inspiration

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Many people have a mantra that helps them persevere through difficult times. It’s hard to think of anyone that needed the mantra above – “You can do hard things” – more than Lisa Lund.

Lisa discovered she was pregnant in the spring of 2019 her healthy daughter, Quinn, was born February 3, 2020. After three weeks at home, however, Lisa spiked a fever of 103 degrees. More tests were run and after two weeks of no improvement and worsening bloodwork, she was admitted to the hospital on March 13.

The very same day COVID-19 was declared a national emergency.

“Lisa’s primary care physician contacted me about her patient, a young mom who had recently given birth and was now experiencing high fevers, enlarged lymph nodes and just wasn’t feeling well,” said Dr. Tara Graff, Lisa’s oncologist and physician at Mission Cancer + Blood. “We typically do not admit patients to the hospital we have not met, but something about her case concerned me.”

Mom and Dad with Newborn Quinn

To complicate the picture, the hospital was on the verge of shutting down and Dr. Graff wanted to make sure Lisa could be admitted to receive the care she needed.

“Not only did we have this young new mother being admitted during a global pandemic, she was also diagnosed with a rarer type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma that actually behaved like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Dr. Graff said. “I actually cried after I met her because I couldn’t imagine having a baby girl and not being able to hold her.”

Dr. Graff sat with Lisa, her husband and her family that first weekend and informed them of the diagnosis, what it meant and the steps of how they were going to treat the disease. She believes in the importance of making the patient and the family a part of the care team.

“Lisa’s strength was what I remember most,” Dr. Graff said. “She didn’t falter. She didn’t crumble. She didn’t fall apart. Her grace and strength were truly inspiring.”

You can do hard things.

Then the hospital shut down to visitors and Lisa had to embark on her first chemo treatment alone.

After Lisa’s First Chemo Session

“Dr. Graff was a really strong rock for me from the beginning,” Lisa said.  “She told me how it was, and she never doubted that I was going to be OK at the end of this.”  

Lisa began to improve quickly once chemo began and the daily joy of taking care of Quinn got her out of bed every morning and actually helped her recover from her treatments.

Lisa completed her chemo at Mission Cancer + Blood, where she met the rest of Dr. Graff’s care team, including Physician Assistant Alecia Raymer.

Dr. Graff and her team

“I knew Lisa’s story and when I first met her, I thought she would be having a really hard time with managing everything, especially when she had to go through it alone because of the pandemic,” Alecia said. “But from the first day, she handled every step with grace and always had a smile on her face.”

After three chemo cycles, Lisa’s scans showed a very encouraging response which fueled her positivity, a very important part of her recovery. And what struck everyone she met at Mission Cancer + Blood.

“Everyone here loves her,” Alecia said. “I don’t think she realizes how strong she was to go through what she went through. Not a lot of people would handle it the way she did.”

You can do hard things.

Lisa was thankful for the care she received from everyone at Mission Cancer + Blood. During a stressful time for her, she also understood how difficult it must have been for everyone there with the pandemic shifting the way they had to do their jobs.

“With everything changing, it was a scary time for them as well because they were risking their lives every day to come to work and take care of me and others,” Lisa said. “But they always treated me with the upmost respect, and provided the best care, even when their lives were also turned upside down.”

Lisa finished chemo in July 2020 followed by a course of radiation. In September, she was in full remission and follow up tests in December 2020, and March 2021 showed no evidence of disease. In May 2021, she got her port removed. Dr. Graff said her prognosis was excellent and is excited to see her living her life to its fullest.

Port Removal

Part of that full life for Lisa was focusing on her family. She and her husband wanted more children but given what she went through, they weren’t certain another pregnancy was possible.

You can do hard things.

“When I was diagnosed, we made the decision to start chemo immediately rather than harvesting and freezing my eggs,” Lisa said. “We were comfortable that if we couldn’t have more children of our own, we’d adopt.”

Then in the summer of 2021, Lisa found out she was pregnant.  She and her husband were thrilled and can’t wait to welcome their second daughter into their lives in March 2022.

“When we learned we were going to have a girl, we made the decision to honor the person who I credit with saving my life,” Lisa said. “Our daughter’s middle name will be Tara, after Dr. Graff. It’s the least I can do for what she did for me.”

Lisa is thankful for the whole team at Mission Cancer + Blood who helped her through a tough time.

“The word that comes to mind is ‘grateful,’” Lisa said. “Dr. Graff was the perfect match for me in so many ways and Alecia was a blessing. The facilities are top notch, and the nurses were wonderful, always taking good care of me. I was so grateful I was able to get my treatment there.”

You can do hard things.

Lisa heard this statement on a podcast while she was in the hospital and it is what helped her through her cancer journey.

“On the difficult days, when things seemed impossible, repeating this really gave me the strength to get through all of this. Giving up was never an option for me. Getting healthy for my daughter kept me going and now I have so much to live for and I am so thankful.”

Lisa and her daughter Quinn

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