A Lyndhurst family has quite a story this holiday season. They're hoping for what would be the best Christmas gift of all: the gift of life.
Joan Musarra hopes her situation will bring awareness to pulmonary fibrosis, a brutal illness that affects about 200,000 people in the U.S.
With spirit and determination, Joan does all she can to work out with her adult children to a workout video in their living room. She requires round the clock oxygen.
"The goal I'm shooting for is to maintain the rest of my health," Joan said with a big smile.
You'd never know she's 57 years old. Joan is also a former teacher, coach and avid athlete, with numerous marathons and triathlons under her belt.
She never imagined that would be taken from her as the disease steals her lung function.
"There's thickening and scarring in the lung tissue, and what happens is it makes it impossible for oxygen to get through," Joan said.
She was diagnosed about six years ago, a couple of years after severe pneumonia. She lost a lobe of her lung battling that illness.
She was coming to terms with the possibility that she would not be around much longer.
"My life has been wonderful. It's been everything I wanted it to be."
Now there is new hope.
"Anytime she's in a difficult situation she finds a way out somehow," said her son Connor.
Joan was finally put on the lung transplant list.
As daunting as a lung transplant sounds, Joan beams as she thinks about what this could mean.
"Now I know I actually might end up back running again, I might be back teaching again or, there are possibilities now where there weren't," Joan said.
That's the spunk her kids say got her this far, the spunk they are more in awe of now than ever.
"It's been unbelievable to see how strong she's been, and she doesn't think about the fact she's sick either so she doesn’t seem as sick as she is," said Joan's daughter Jillian.
"It's really easy to go 'that's it!' and give up, but she refuses to let that get to her," Connor added.
Joan says she couldn't be more grateful for a number of things, including the ability to envision a future again. She's also grateful for all that she's learned through this journey about the goodness of others wanting to help her.
There is no word on when the double lung transplant will happen. It could be any minute, it could take a year.
Joan has been warned about finances. While insurance will pay for a good part of her transplant, The National Foundation for Transplants encouraged her to open a donation page through their site because there will be big expenses that won't be covered.
CLICK HERE if you would like to help.f you want to help her here is where to go:
Connor also has a Facebook page set up to help. CLICK HERE to visit.
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