Couple Forced to Battle Cancer Separately for Months Due to COVID Travel Restrictions

An elderly couple from Auckland, New Zealand, has been fighting cancer on opposite sides of the Tasman Sea, thanks to COVID-19 travel restrictions that have kept them from reuniting for over two months. Their wait, however, will hopefully soon be over.

71-year-old Felicity Wilson was diagnosed with cancer for the second time not long ago. She fought breast cancer originally 21 years ago and won, but, when she began experiencing an uncomfortable pain in her chest three years ago, her first thought was that it might be cancer again.

Felicity went to see her doctor, who ran some tests and said everything looked normal. But the pain continued to worsen, to the point where Felicity had to go to the hospital. The doctors there struggled for two weeks to figure out what was wrong with her. They came up empty-handed.

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The day after being released from the hospital, Felicity requested a referral for a CT scan, and when the results came back, it was what she had anticipated.

“I said to him, ‘It is not good news, is it?.’ He said, ‘No. You have cancer. It is in your sternum, and it is stage four.'”

Felicity was told radiation treatment would be impossible because of the damage left by her previous cancer. She was given three to five years to live.

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“Because I had already gone through this I had a lot of knowledge about cancer, but my husband didn’t, Verne asked the doctor what happens at stage five, and the doctor answered, there is no stage five. I knew what stage four meant. Stage four means the end of the road.”

Felicity was offered palliative care but instead decided to travel across the Tasman Sea to Australia, where doctors believed they could give her radiation without disturbing the site of her previous cancer.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused borders to close, Felicity was given a special exemption to allow her to get to her treatment. However, with flights shutting down, hotels restricting visitor access, and obstacles cropping up pretty much everywhere, it became harder and harder for Felicity to travel.

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As if Felicity and her husband weren’t going through enough, another blow was about to be dealt to them. They soon learned that Verne, 74, had been diagnosed with complications related to previous skin cancer treatments.

“At that time, we didn’t know how serious it was,” says Felicity. “I told him I would postpone my treatment, but he said no, I had to go. My cancer was a matter of life and death.”

So she traveled back to Australia again for another treatment, this time without her beloved husband by her side. Ever since then, they’ve been separated, waiting for the strict travel restriction between the two countries to lift or a room to open up at a quarantine hotel so that they can see one another again.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Jesse Kunerth

Thus far, it’s been about 10 weeks. During this time, Felicity has been told she may be able to survive stage IV cancer, but Verne has learned that his cancer complications are more serious than previously thought and have affected both of his shin bones.

So Felicity had good reason to be glued to her computer, her flight already picked out and ready to purchase, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced a “travel bubble” to allow quarantine-free travel between the two nations.

“I can confirm that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will commence in just under two weeks’ time, from 11:59 pm Sunday, April 18,” the prime minister said.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Roman

Felicity immediately clicked “confirm” to book her flight. With her own future and her husband’s both feeling a little uncertain, it was well beyond time to go home.

“The announcement of the travel bubble was such a relief,” says Felicity. “I cannot wait to get back to the love of my life. He has been through even more strife over there than I have been through over here.”

We wish safe travels to Felicity and successful cancer treatments to her and Verne. May this lovely couple have many more happy years together.

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