As Cancer Survivors, We Feel Like We Are Drowning During COVID-19

A cancer survivor explains how she feels like she’s living inside a nightmare with new COVID-19 variants appearing all the time, making her unable to see her family over the holidays.

I have been writing about the double whammy of COVID-19 and cancer for survivors for way too long now. This nightmare began in the spring of 2020.

I naively thought when the vaccine that the scientists worked so hard to develop appeared, the magic road back to a normal life would occur. What I didn’t count on was the number of people afraid or unable to get vaccinated and the horrible variants that arise every time we turn around, much like a serpent's head that is chopped off with another head appearing.

Here we are in winter of 2021 and we are still experiencing horrible results of COVID-19. We have lost people we loved, we know people having long-lasting side effects who survived, the economy is still topsy turvy, supplies are floating out in the ocean and another ominous variant called Omicron is on the horizon.

I personally suffered a real blow when I excitedly made my plane reservations to visit family I adore out of state. Christmas has always been important in my family — not the presents as much as being together and laughing and loving and enjoying each other.

Then my oncologist broke the bad (but not unexpected) news that with my low immune system I should cancel travel plans and not fly. It is too far for me to drive alone.

I honestly try to stay upbeat, but am finding it increasingly difficult. Like everyone else in the whole world, I feel like I am drowning. I am sinking and falling into waters and unable to climb out. The waters are overwhelming, pounding at me and dragging me down constantly. I am feeling so many emotions including fatigued, discombobulated, confused, anger, fear and inability to find a kernel of normalcy. I know others share the same experiences and emotions.

I am hesitant to say anything because others have lost so much more than I have, like loved ones, jobs, income and more. It feels like COVID-19 is teasing us, tantalizing us, laughing at us. Yeah, we think we are so smart and determined that we will not drown. We will climb out of the water just long enough to be pushed down again with stronger variants than before.

Damn this unseen monster that is once again ruining my chances of flying and being with family. Damn this cancer ruining my immunity so that COVID-19 runs my life. Damn this pandemic that will not go away and leave me alone. I know it is not personal, but it sure feels like it.

Then when I was looking at devotionals I found a tiny little nugget of hope. In the book “Making God Smile” by Kim Taylor Henry, she quotes an anonymous source who said, “A diamond is a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.”

Maybe — just maybe — there is hope on the other side. Every one of us living in this pandemic era is stronger because of what we have gone through. We have found ways to celebrate special occasions we never dreamed about. We have taken many of our activities outdoors in heated patios. We have learned to be alone more and enjoy family time. We have cleaned out and decluttered our homes. We have contacted people we have not seen in ages. We have reached out to neighbors like never before.

The medical people and frontline employees are still risking their lives for us, and the researchers are working 24/7 to find new answers. We see people giving money and food, caring for people in need. Some of us have changed careers and are working from home permanently. We have proven to ourselves we are stronger than we ever dreamed we could be.

I need to realize the pandemic still has its grip on me and others, but maybe we are charcoals waiting to be diamonds on the other side. We can always hope.

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