And so I find myself in another unique situation. Having terminal cancer in the midst of a global pandemic. A decade ago, I couldn’t really imagine living through either one independent of each other, let alone both together. Nonetheless, there are advantages and disadvantages to my situation.
Some disadvantages may seem rather obvious. I do not have the luxury of postponing treatments and therefore limiting my exposure to the virus. My weekly chemotherapy is no doubt what is keeping the cancer from killing me, so those must continue. My weekly visits do look quite different. I am screened each time I enter the building, my temperature is taken and I am quizzed as to my destination and purpose for entering the facility. This doesn’t bother me. I know it’s about keeping me and others safe. On the plus side, I haven’t had to wait for blood draws or infusions in well over a month.
Another disadvantage is of course, having a compromised immune system. My doctor explained to me that it is not less likely I would survive if I caught the virus, but more likely that I catch it in the first place. There really isn’t much that can be done about this. We discussed that chemo would be on hold if I were to become ill. So far my blood counts have been good and I have not been sick. I have been back on chemo since mid January and it is again beginning to take a toll on my energy levels. I had been doing acupuncture prior to society shutting down and was hoping it would lessen the side effects of chemo. But acupuncture is not deemed essential and so it’s been about 5 weeks since I was able to go.
I’m surrounded by fear and anxiety. People are experiencing unprecedented circumstances, so it’s understandable why the uncertainty is unsettling. For me, fear and anxiety are feelings I had made peace with many years ago. Living with cancer is a constant stream of emotions and uncertainty. It’s not pleasant, but you eventually get used to it. I guess this is an advantage for me. I do feel great empathy for those that are not used to uncertainty. Not only does the fear revolve around health, but also jobs, money, school, social events, and family. This is a very difficult time for those that like to have things planned out.
I was very disappointed in March when my trip to Hawaii had to be postponed. It was a trip that had been a year of planning and the timing could not have been worse. We were supposed to leave March 18th, just as shut downs and stay at home orders were beginning. Right up until the very last day, we were contemplating whether we go or stay. We definitely made the right choice as all of our planned activities in Hawaii ended up being canceled, but it was still a hard decision. I know that it can and likely will still happen at some point. Travel is so important to me right now, and I hope that I will be able to get a few more trips in before my time is up.
Another interesting situation was the fact that our basement finishing project was well underway when all of this stuff started. I was worried that it would come to a grinding halt but it did not. Construction is deemed essential and so work continued and finished on time. There was rarely more than one tradesman in the house at a time and there was no face to face contact. They entered and exited out the basement window so I felt pretty safe.
On April 3rd, my mother fell and broke her ankle. Talk about bad timing! She broke it in two places and surgery was necessary. This is not a great time to need surgery or to be in the hospital. I was able to be with her pre-surgery, but no visitors were allowed in recovery or in the hospital. Again, I know this is in everyone’s best interest, but it’s hard to not be able to be there with my mom. She is now in a skilled nursing facility for some rehabilitation. Same rules, no visitors. I don’t like it, but I understand.
People seem to be getting very bored and cabin fever is setting in. While there are things I miss being able to do, staying home is not an issue for me at all. I have plenty of things to keep me busy. I can’t say I’ve felt bored for any length of time. I cringe at the people who are beginning to protest the stay at home orders. As a history teacher, I know all to well what happens when restrictions are lifted too early. The virus makes a comeback and the second wave hits harder than the first. The flu pandemic of 1918 is proof of that. I’m amazed that we don’t take history lessons to heart. I hope we don’t make the same mistake.
My next scan is on April 30th. I’m hoping for stability and the ability to continue on my current treatment, at least through the summer. At that point, another break may be needed. I hope everyone is staying home, staying safe, and staying sane. And I especially thank all of the people who do not have the luxury of staying home. Their work and efforts are what will carry us all through this difficult time.