Cancer Is Sneaky Like Covid

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COVID is unpredictable and scary, much like cancer.

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Jane Biehl

When COVID hit in 2020, I think most of us did not realize that this would not be a one-and-done process once the vaccine came out. Some of us remembered the polio vaccine, which after crippling and killing many children, was eradicated. Other diseases gradually disappeared like smallpox, shingles, pneumonia and diphtheria. Some people slipped through the cracks but for the most part, the majority of people were protected.

We celebrated when the vaccine arrived after brilliant scientists from all over the world worked 24/7 to bring it to us, I remember saying to the pharmacist who administered the first vaccine that I was never so happy to receive a shot in my life. As every cancer survivor knows the fear was great for those of us with compromised immune systems and I was relieved to be first in line to receive them. Naively, I thought this was a panacea and the fear would dissipate. The worst seemed to be over.

But COVID is a sneaky slithering snake much like cancer. Every time we thought we had the COVID vanquished a new variant would appear. Perhaps we would not be as sick, but still, long-haul COVID and other side effects refused to be vanquished. I have Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a rare blood cancer, and wrote a previous article on the variants which happen in both cases – cancer and COVID. I had a couple more serious variants appear in some blood work and we were concerned this could prove fatal. Fortunately, a new treatment called Luspatercept has been very successful thus far.

Some cancers can be completely cured or NED – no evidence of disease. But for many of us, cancer is only controlled and researchers work on giving us more time. With COVID, some boosters may work against one variant and another appears. It is also worrisome that some variants can come back even stronger causing more cancers and COVID.

Psychologically, cancer patients have a double whammy and sometimes feel we have a ticking time bomb in us. Most of us have learned to truly cherish one day at a time. COVID is always lurking too. I used to take cruises yearly but would be scared now. I got COVID the last time I flew and am wary. After more than a year, I will attempt it again. This snake is supposed to have its head cut off to be dead and so far that has not happened. COVID and cancer are scary, unpredictable, and appearing constantly in and out of our lives. But we try to seek out treatments, get our boosters and do all we can to combat adverse effects. However, life is uncertain for every one of us both with and without cancer, and this seems to be what life is all about. We need to continue to avoid that slithering snake ready to attack us and keep it at bay.

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