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'I'll Will This Outta Me': NJ Cancer Survivor Shares Moment He Knew He'd Beat Coronavirus, Too

John Mormando, right, and his son, Jonathan, of Oakland.
John Mormando, right, and his son, Jonathan, of Oakland. Photo Credit: John Mormando Facebook

A Bergen County breast cancer survivor says he knew the exact moment last month he was going to beat a severe case of coronavirus, too.

There was never a time during John Mormando's 2018 cancer treatment he thought he was going to die. Coronavirus was different, he said.

"Chemotherapy and radiation were horrible and I was in pain," the 53-year-old commodities broker told Daily Voice Friday night, "but I never thought they were going to kill me."

On March 15, after several days at Ridgewood's The Valley Hospital and a nebulizer treatment, Mormando could barely breathe. He called in his nurse, who subsequently brought in the respiratory team.

He overhead one of the workers tell the nurse they were going to take him for intubation in the ICU.

"When I heard that, I said, 'No way,'" said Mormando, of Oakland. "I was screaming.

"In my mind I said, 'I’ve gotten through all this time. I know they’ll put me into a coma and if they do, I might not wake up.'

"I said: 'I’ll will this out of me, but there’s no way I’m getting put under.'"

Mormando knew he was bound to turn a corner soon -- if he kept a positive attitude. And that moment turned out to be the sickest Mormando was with coronavirus -- or anything.

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The Brooklyn native had been training for an Iron Man just as the coronavirus pandemic  was starting to unfold in New Jersey. He believes he contracted the virus March 1, while shaking someone's hand a bowling event -- something he says he misses most.

Symptoms presented March 5, and only worsened from there. Mormando took a coronavirus test on March 11, but he says people with the bug don't need a test to know they have it.

"The one common denominator in every person I talk to that had this is that they all say the same thing," Mormando said, "That this is the most sick they've ever been in their lives."

Mormando woke up uncontrollably coughing while in self-quarantine at his home, hours after taking the coronavirus test. 

His wife drove him straight to The Valley Hospital, where he would spend the next several days alone in a hospital bed feeling his symptoms get worse and worse.

"My mindset was just try to get trough the next hour," he recalled Friday night. "I would look at the clock on the wall and count the minutes down, minute by minute. I’d just keep thinking eventually the 103-degree fevers, full-body chills and coughing would have to end. 

"But it would last hours and it was mentally draining, waiting for your body to get back to normal, and hoping it would.

Aside from being hooked up to an IV with fluids, on fever-reducing Tylenol and a cough suppressant with codeine, Mormando says he was on his own in there -- just trying to breathe and stay warm.

"It's basically self-survival," he said.

And so, when he heard that the ICU and an induced coma were what lay ahead, Mormando pushed back.

"I didn't want to be that person laying there in a coma with tubes in my throat," said Mormando, "and no one coming to visit me."

Mormando's nurse seemed puzzled, and explained to him that the ICU and intubation would help him get better. He pleaded: "Just give me some time."

And the hospital staff did, he said. They stood there with him for 30 minutes, watching as his fever miraculously dropped, his chills lessened and the spasms in his lungs came to a halt.

"This virus is very strange," Mormando explained. "It’s on a self-destruct timer. If you can get through days 10 and 11, most people start getting better."

And Mormando was one of them.

With every passing day, his temperature dropped. His chills lasted for shorter periods of time. His cough eased up.

Mormando's coronavirus test returned positive toward the end of his hospital stay, but, he said: "I didn't need a test to tell me I had coronavirus."

The broker was home by March 18. 

"My friends said 'You’re either the most unlucky guy in the world or the luckiest guy in the world," he told Daily Voice. "I say I’m lucky. I had some really bad diseases and I battled through them. I had to tough it out."

Having gone through it, Mormando feels that what the mayors, governors and president are doing are the best thing right now.

"Social distancing is the only way this thing is gonna slow down long enough for hospitals to get a break," he said. "Maybe in that time we can come up with some drugs to help with the symptoms, but this is the only way to stop it."

He's also hoping to give some hope to those now going through what he's successfully fought.

"I was considered the first person in New Jersey to physically recover," Mormando said, "and I just wanted to tell people it’s not all death.

"Most likely, you’re not going to die. There's more recovery than there is death.

"Be strong, be positive and be tough. 

"I want to be a beacon of hope for people. A regular, 53-year-old guy who got through it and so can you."

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