Family shouldn’t have to die alone as Trump throws a rallies
On the night of Sunday, Oct. 25, my stepfather died of COVID-19. He died of pneumonia. He died of a stroke. But most importantly, he died alone. Because of President Donald Trump.
It didn’t have to be like this. How many lives were lost or ruined, that didn’t have to be? As White House chief of staff Mark Meadows put it, “We are not going to control the pandemic.” He said that just hours before my stepdad passed away.
For over 20 years Randy has been a big, bold part of my life, and I can’t quite grasp yet what this life will look like without him in it. In my quiet, Midwestern and introverted family, he stood out with his exuberance and his stories that you could never quite tell which were wholly true. He shook up my family’s world, and repainted it in brighter colors. Now those colors are fading to black.
He suffered a stroke in early September and moved to a nursing home on Sept. 30, after a stint in the hospital. By Oct. 10, he had a fever and, on Oct. 12, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Pneumonia set in a few days before he died. The nursing home didn’t allow any visitors because of the pandemic. Period. Mom was sometimes allowed to FaceTime him during this time, but that was all. She was able to mask and glove up and see him briefly in the end, but she could not be there when he finally left us forever.
Tired of impossible choices
Because of how we’ve failed to handle this pandemic, my mom had to choose whether to risk her own life to be in the room to say goodbye to her dying husband. His son and daughter couldn’t say their goodbyes in person since they live many miles away in California, and my sister and I are helpless bystanders several states away.
Due to the incompetence of this administration, we’re forced into an impossible dilemma: our family versus our own safety.
Trump may be “tired” of hearing about coronavirus, but we have to live with the consequences of his actions and inaction. Even after his own diagnosis, he continues to hold rallies, unmasked, around the country, leaving a trail of likely super spreader events behind him and in the White House. After all the sacrifices our country has made, he sacrifices nothing.
I’m tired too. Because of the raging pandemic, there is no completely safe way to travel across the country right now that doesn’t carry germs with me. I cannot bear the possibility of infecting my mom, and she cannot bear the possibility of losing her daughter, too.
Both health and care at risk
Trump told Americans not to let COVID-19 “dominate” our lives. But the truth is, one way or another, my life has already been dominated by this president over the past few years.
Three years ago, I walked into a doctors office with a nagging cough and walked out with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis.
The day after my first chemotherapy appointment, House Republicans voted to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, which was saving my life. That fall, I woke up one day to find out that the president of the United States had blocked me on Twitter for criticizing his willingness to strip me of care.
While those overt legislative attempts were stopped, the Trump tax law passed at the end of 2017, which set up the Supreme Court case that now threatens the entire ACA.
So at the end of 2018, I was forced to move to a new state, just to ensure I resided in a place with good fall-back options on the state level in case Trump succeeded in his attempts to end pre-existing condition protections for all.
As a stage 4 cancer survivor, insurance companies wouldn’t ever choose to cover me if they didn’t have to. Without insurance, if my cancer returns I would be bankrupt or dead.
Trapped in place
Now I’ve reached a stasis — I’m in remission, mostly holed up at home in Denver. The danger of COVID-19 is very real for me; there is possible chemotherapy damage to my heart and lungs, radiation damage to my heart and lungs, and immune system effects post-cancer. This pandemic traps me in place, separating me from my family when we need each other most.
It didn’t have to be like this. While I was enduring cancer treatments in 2017, every month my mom took the time and money to fly across the country and take care of me. That’s time she took away from Randy and gave to me; but the clock has run out.
Now I am unable to be there for her because of our country’s botched response to this pandemic. Wracking my brain trying to figure out any safe way to get from here to there, and failing every time.
All this, I have to carry, while watching our president take off his mask and compare COVID-19 to the flu; while watching him expose countless other Americans to the virus for any reason or no reason at all.
USA TODAY Editorial Board:Coronavirus response shows Donald Trump’s failure of leadership
I can’t travel, even to see goodbye to my stepfather, and I can’t hold my mom’s hand and help her through this immense loss. That’s excruciating. Forcing people recovering from cancer to choose between exposing themselves to the risk of infection, or not being with dying loved ones in their last moments, was surely not an inevitable result of the pandemic.
Over 227,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 to date; how many more Americans have died alone because of this mismanaged pandemic? How many more of us will have to make these impossible decisions every day?
This time it was my stepdad. It could have also been my mother. It could be any of our loved ones. I lay this at the feet of our president. He will likely never have to make such an impossible choice, but more of us will have to.
We must vote Trump out of office, in memory of those who are no longer here, and to protect the millions of Americans from his incompetence. My stepfather Randy Cavanaugh’s vote against Trump was one of his proudest moments. We can do no less.