Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
A breast cancer survivor celebrates her 10-year "cancerversary" during the global pandemic and finds ways to feel grateful.
When we come upon a cancer milestone, with mixed emotions and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still might want to celebrate that we are alive. I just had my 10-year breast cancer diagnosis anniversary. I am still here! 10 years later I am here! How can I celebrate in the middle of a pandemic? A fellow survivor suggested some great ideas.
I tend to celebrate with mixed emotions, and rather quietly. Cancer survivors know that excessive binge television watching, eating or alcohol really are not the best ways to celebrate. How can a cancer survivor celebrate minus social interaction? Well, eating, alcohol and television are not the best tools in our cancer coping toolbox. Do you have an uneasy relationship with these binge activities during COVID-19? Me too! So, what happens when the "social" is taken away but the stress from COVID-19 remains? I like the ideas of journaling, giving back in some way and just plain celebrating.
I have done a few cyber happy hours with family and friends during COVID-19, but it is not the same. I have stood outside and chatted at proper social distances with my neighbors. I have had phone calls with dear friends. Still, I miss being crowded together at a table laughing with the wonderful people in my life. When I sometimes drink or overeat at home with my spouse during COVID-19, I think it just makes us sleepy. A party of two does not really feel like a party, and I do not really "need" or wish to spend those precious calories on alcohol or sugar.
Reconnecting helps me to celebrate and to cope. Cancer and COVID-19 can both contribute to isolation. Ironically, with COVID-19, compared to cancer, we are not alone in our isolation. As for COVID-19 and cancer, we just want back into our normal daily lives and interactions with each other. I have been fortunate to reconnect with a friend I have not been in touch with for almost a decade and with some old (literally, all of us are old now) school friends. Zoom and FaceTime have become weirdly important in my life.
Though I am a natural introvert, I still miss the people and activities of my normally scheduled life. My normal life was not perfect, few peoples' lives are, but it was my life. The news we see and hear is mostly about COVID-19 yet life's "normal" ups and downs continue to happen too. I take my hat off to all of us and try to cut all of us a little slack. Life has always had hard times. This COVID-19 pandemic is even harder. It is pervasive, kind of like cancer.
A cancer diagnosis can create isolation from everyone around us. Our diagnosis separates us from the "normal" pack. When our hair falls out, it is hard to "blend in." COVID-19 has then put limits on who can be around us. It is a double whammy. Even though we go through cancer and COVID-19 alone, we can still connect to others. There are some excellent Facebook support groups for cancer. We really are not alone. We can be here for each other through Facebook groups, Zoom, and even old-fashioned telephone calls. Remember those? We are all in this together and we will get through it, cancerversaries and all.