If you scrolled through your social media feeds and had a drink each time you saw a word from the list above, you’d be… well, I’ll let you figure it out. The latest news on the pandemic is EVERYWHERE and it can be pretty overwhelming.
Well, I’ve come to realize that this entire COVID-19 situation is a bit of a trigger for me. SURPRISE! Some of my cancer friends have talked about how social isolation brings them back to their chemo treatments and when they were neutropenic and all the feelings that come with that. I didn’t have a traditional chemo experience so I couldn’t really relate to some of those flashbacks. (However, put one of those surgical masks on me and it immediately brings me back the 4 hours I spent in the hospital waiting room with a 102 degree only to later be admitted for 9 days -- yeah, it’s that vivid.)
Since we began working from home, (I am fortunate enough to be able to do my job entirely remote) I found myself extremely exhausted at the end of the day. It sort of mirrored when I was going through treatment. I couldn’t really figure out why. I just stayed at home all day and mostly in the same spot. My extra curricular activities have been drastically reduced, well, because everything is closed. The only thing I could chalk it up to was the tension that surrounded me. All of this COVID-19 stuff is so, so heavy.
But this week, starting our 4th week working from home, I finally realized why I was feeling so off. Sure, I have general fear and anxiety as it relates to the pandemic -- but who doesn’t? We had a pretty big change this week at work and all of a sudden it hit me like a ton of bricks. This pandemic is triggering for me because of the sheer uncontrollability of it all. Things are changing SO FAST -- like daily, if not hourly. Turns out, all the rapid change and state of the unknown took me back to my diagnosis -- a time that was very tumultuous for me (as you can imagine). When I was diagnosed it felt like I was blindsided by a tornado. Every detail that unfolded brought more and more tough news. Things that were once laughable and inconvenient became very serious, very quickly. And I had no idea what the other side looked like. Would a life with cancer be my ‘new normal’? Would I survive metastatic melanoma?
You see, for cancer patients and survivors, this pandemic can be extra scary. Yes, because some of our immune systems are compromised, and yes, because we have some severe underlying health issues. But with that, we also have a great deal of fear and anxiety already as part of our daily lives. That same anxiety you feel about catching COVID-19, is similar to how we feel every time we step foot into a doctor’s office or imaging machine. The same fear of the unknown future you feel is precisely how we felt upon being diagnosed. The same grief you have for your life pre-pandemic is how we felt grieving our lives pre-cancer.
I’m not trying to minimize COVID-19 or anyone’s feelings associated with it. Its threat is very valid and our feelings are very real. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the future is never known. And somehow I coped with a metastatic cancer diagnosis by finding the things I could control and keeping them close. So do your part: find the things you can control and do them. Then, let the rest unfold. And also just try to be an extra kind human being - because this is tough on all of us.