An unexpected and lifechanging diagnosis, which I have never shared publicly, has shaken my family over the past few months.

In late March, I rushed my husband to the emergency room, fearing he had COVID-19. With the hospital in a virtual lockdown due to the pandemic, I couldn’t be with him as he spoke to the doctors. I waited in the car.

Around 1 a.m., my 55-year-old husband called me from the ER. His voice broke up as he told me he had leukemia. They were rushing him to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

The shock has still not worn off. He was healthy, with no family history of cancer.

Again, due to COVID-19, I could not visit him for five weeks. I could only watch from FaceTime on my cellphone. I kept two cellphones by my pillow at night: one on a stand to watch him all night and the other ready to make calls to family and his nurses and doctors.

A few nights later, I watched as his whole body heaved to take in a breath that I feared would be his last before he was moved to intensive care and put on a ventilator. Had he been admitted just a few days later, a ventilator would not have been available due to the influx of COVID-19 patients.

The entire experience has been traumatizing, but the hardest part was knowing that I couldn’t do even the smallest things to help him. I couldn’t adjust his pillow or make sure he had ice water.

To make matters worse, in the midst of all of this, I lost my mother, and I could not be with her due to the risk of contracting COVID-19 and exposing my immunocompromised husband.

I’m thankful we have good health insurance through my husband’s job and doctors who are committed to his recovery, but I’m acutely aware not everyone is as fortunate.

Sadly, my family’s story is not unique.

The reckless pursuit of corporate profits has done immeasurable damage to the environment and caused untold illness across New Hampshire.

With the highest rates of pediatric, breast, esophageal and bladder cancer in the nation, we must prevent cancer and hold our state government accountable. To ensure that happens, appointees to the courts, commissions, and regulatory agencies must prioritize public health and science over profit.

As an environmental advocate, scientist and former legislator, I have fought for clean drinking water, held polluters accountable, and studied environmentally triggered cancers and chronic illnesses in New Hampshire.

Identifying a double pediatric cancer cluster in my town was the very reason behind my entry into politics in 2016. This work has always been in service to the people of New Hampshire, but my own personal experience has brought these issues home.

Financial challenges and access to healthcare are issues that have long existed but are now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to make sure that we guarantee high quality, affordable healthcare to everyone regardless of employment.

Cancer or COVID-19 diagnosis devastates us all — Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.

Today, as I run for the Executive Council, my husband’s diagnosis has strengthened my resolve to fight for families like mine whose lives have been upended by preventable, life-threatening illness.

We need leaders who can empathize with the struggles of their constituents and who have the tools, experience, and judgment necessary to address the most pressing issues of our time.

Sharing something so personal is difficult and not something I ever imagined I would do during my bid for public office.

While shaken by this tragedy, through our shared experience, I am drawn closer to those I have fought alongside all this time, and I am filled with the resolve to continue advocating for my family, your family, and the people of New Hampshire.

Through solidarity, we shall persevere.

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Mindi Messmer, PG, CG is a Democratic candidate for District 3 Executive Council.