Finding Motivation During COVID-19 As a Cancer Survivor

Heal, Heal Spring 2021,

A cancer survivor laments the difficulty of dealing with the pandemic and discusses one possible solution.

I have to admit, that after battling cancer for over ten years, I presently am struggling more with the pandemic than the cancer. I hate being uncertain when I will go out of remission—and it is a question of when not if. I keep saying that I cherish every day, but to be candid, I do worry about the future. The raging pandemic that seems to go on forever has affected all of this even more. All of us have been impacted, from children in school to the people in nursing homes, to those in the workplace, to the heroic essential workers, while for cancer survivors every single procedure is worsened by the pandemic. We no longer can visit loved ones, nor have someone accompany us to treatments. Justifiably, we worry constantly about becoming ill, or that something terrible will happen to our loved ones. Tragically, in some cases, we have lost family and friends.

For me, this time of despair has hit me and caused my depression to rise with a vengeance. I used to love getting up in the morning and go out to the Y, to church, attend movies and plays with friends or go out to eat. Going to visit my relatives over the holidays was special, and yearly cruises were anticipated with glee. Lately, I have been waking up and not wanting to get out of bed. I cannot see my friends and am tired of Zoom. Cruises are a long way off from being safe again and flying is downright dangerous. I live alone and sometimes ask why I bother to get up. Somehow, I force myself to get dressed and move.

Once I do get out of bed, I find things to do around my apartment, calls to make, e-mails and texts to send to stay in contact. What gives me the most pleasure is writing cards to friends and sending surprises through the long-suffering mail. My writing has kept me sane, (although some people may be questioning that). I am editing another book too. Then, I found this quote by Lady Bird Johnson, a former first lady who lived from 1912-2007. “Become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid.” I always liked her better than her overbearing husband, though I respected him. I don’t think she had an easy life, but she wrapped herself up in several causes and did a lot of good for others.

After reading that quote, I thought BINGO – when I am writing, reaching out, reading a good book or sending positive messages, I don’t have time to fear the future, wonder when I will get my vaccine, or worry about the monster virus. Laying in bed feeling sorry for myself accomplishes nothing except to make me more depressed!

Doing constructive activities does help. Just waiting it out until the virus is over and doing very little is not working well. I did not get my Ph.D. until age 48. One of my wise professors used to tell me when I got discouraged about how long it was taking and how old I was that “You are going to be 48 whether you get your degree or not!”

I have two clear choices. I can wait until this is all over to be happy, or be productive and do what I can because the precious time is passing by no matter which choice I make. And yes – there are those days we all need to brood and feel sorry for ourselves because we are human. Eventually, we need to muddle through, knowing we just cannot muster the energy to forge ahead. But muddling through works until this nightmare is over, and the world is better!