COVID Confessions: Pandemic, cancer and my Boca Chica Beach


Starting chemotherapy was a new awakening for me. It opened my eyes to just how serious of a battle my body will have. My surgery to remove cancer cells wasn’t healing as it should, so chemo was delayed for a couple of weeks. Just as I was to have surgery to implant a port catheter in my chest, which serves as a method to more easily transfer the chemo medications into the body, there was another delay caused by COVID-19. No non-emergency surgeries were to be allowed in hospitals, so my surgery was delayed for five more weeks. As soon as the COVID-19 regulations were lifted, the green light was given to implant the port catheter and chemo followed a few days later.

My sister, Denise Williams Austin, arrived from her home in Houston to take me for round one of intense chemo. About a week later, she said she was taking me to Boca Chica Beach to energize my soul and my heart. This is my favorite place in the world and she knows it.

I had been away from my hometowns of Brownsville and San Benito for many years. I was living my dream as a network news writer in New York City and then as a communications director for a congressman in Washington, D.C. I loved my life in both places, but Brownsville kept calling me back. It offered a sense of comfort from my fast-shuffling world. A few years ago I found the house in Brownsville that I had dreamed about owning. I bought it and moved home.

At Boca Chica Beach, my sister and I had a nice picnic, with “gourmet” tuna sandwiches and chips. We call any tuna sandwich gourmet when it has more than mayonnaise on it.

We reminisced how our family used to camp out for weeks at “our” beach in the early 1960s. Those carefree childhood days spent body surfing and playing king of the mountain on the sand dunes.

Boca Chica Beach fills me with solace and rejuvenation. In this time of reflection, I stared off into the horizon wishing, praying that Cancer and COVID-19 would be eradicated.

I have six months ahead of chemo treatments followed by one month of radiation. My oncologist made no bones about it saying I’m in for a very rough ride.

A week into the first chemo treatment, the side effects began. The lesions on the tongue and mouth sores were followed by an immune system that fell through the basement floor; critical level they told me. To all my fellow sisters and brothers who have gone down this journey, I salute you for your perseverance and courage.

Patricia Guillermo Williams and Denise Williams Austin (Courtesy photo)

I cannot express enough gratitude for my sister’s unflagging dedication and for her constant love and patience in making sure I am in good hands. I am also blessed with old and new friends and family who are ready to step in to help but thanks to COVID-19 we all have to be extra careful. Here at home, my steadfast group of high school friends —we call ourselves Precious Gems — have rallied around to help me as best as they can during these times.

It’s like a double whammy in cases like mine or others who have compromised health issues.

Isolation or quarantine at the highest level is now in order for me. I spend some days alone but as the chemotherapy increases I might need full assistance down the line.

So many people have died and many are still suffering due to COVID-19. And in all of this whirlwind of a global pandemic, I find that I am very fortunate. I am fighting a deadly disease at the worst of times but I am fighting the good fight. I am not alone and the best part is I am a few minutes away from my Boca Chica Beach.