Even as she fights cancer and struggles with a rare lung disease, Corinna Dewar thinks of helping others.
In past holiday seasons, she would bake cookies for some of her neighbors in a suburb of Sacramento, California, and drop them off at their doors. Amid the pandemic, she gave them Santa-decorated care packages of sanitizing products instead.
She’s housebound, so her husband helped deliver some of them and she mailed the rest. Giving back to others was especially important in 2020, when she underwent treatment for skin cancer.
“Finding and sending products to friends and family helped me stay connected to them,” she said. “And it gave me a small way to help out and focus on something other than my health and the pandemic.”
Dewar was diagnosed with lymphangioleiomyomatosis — also known as LAM — a decade ago. For some years, she continued her job as a social worker and later counseled homeless people. When the disease advanced, it became a struggle to even walk a flight of stairs. She began to use an oxygen tank, and she prepared to undergo a lung transplant.
“And I thought, OK, now’s the time to stop doing the active volunteering, but just finding little ways to help if I can,” Dewar said.
Dewar removed herself from the waiting list for an organ donor last May because hospitals were overwhelmed by the COVID crisis and she felt it wasn’t the right time for a transplant. Two months later she was diagnosed with skin cancer and had a tumor removed from her foot.
Doctors have told her that she won’t be able to get back on a waiting list for a transplant for more than four years, because medication she would take after the operation would feed the melanoma.
Still, she remains hopeful and grateful for her life. And she continues to believe in the importance of looking out for others, even more so during the pandemic.
“A lot of us feel disconnected from each other, and with the politics as well,” Dewar said. “There’s just a lot of anger when it comes to people: some people not wearing masks, some people not acknowledging the disease, other people risking their life as medical professionals. And I think, just kind of connecting with people and having some small connection with them is helpful.”