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.
What can cancer survivors do to cope and process the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Coronavirus, COVID-19 or the worldwide pandemic all reference a topic that feels too large for me to process. COVID-19 is too all encompassing and impacts too much for me to process it with a platitude or two. COVID-19 impacts our health, our finances, our emotions and our collective and individual ways of doing daily life. So, Let's begin at the beginning.
Some of us ignore it. Some of us minimize it. Some of us feel swamped by it. Most of us are socially isolated by it. We can't go under it or around it. We must go through it, and we can and will eventually prevail. I believe we will come out the other side kinder, wiser and stronger.
To start, we can acknowledge our feelings about COVID-19. Yes, I am afraid for my life. Many cancer survivors, whether they are in or beyond active treatment, have compromised immune systems. I am torn. On the one hand, COVID-19 seems like an "easier" thing to face than cancer. Still, honestly, if I have a choice, I do not want to die.
We can help each other. I am even more afraid for the lives of the people around me than myself. I do not want to carelessly run an extra errand, forget and touch something (maybe a gas pump handle), forget to sanitize my hands at the right moment (before for other people or afterwards for me), or accidently get within six feet of another person. Any of these behaviors on my part could inadvertently hurt someone else.
No one is justified in bending the rules here. We are all in this together, and no one wants to harm the people around them whether they are family, friends or strangers. Instead, we can help each other.
Financial and economic worries are part of COVID-19 too. Finances may have been difficult even before COVID-19 and may be even more difficult as we move ahead. How long will we be able to work? How long will we be able to pay our bills? Will we ever be able to retire? We want to help the businesses around us at the same time that we try to live within our reduced financial means. These are tough and complex issues.
Relationships and emotional health may be compromised before, during and after COVID-19. Births, deaths, weddings, funerals, relationships and careers are getting hit by this. Some of us were already dealing with junk before COVID-19 hit. Some of us will get hit by things during COVID-19. There will be an aftermath that we can’t predict to process as well. We have to be able to accept the uncertainty of it all.
What ultimately matters is how we behave through this crisis. We will and are learning the lessons that this pandemic is teaching us. If you do not want to practice hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing for yourself, then please do it for everyone else.
Consider sharing rather than hoarding things like toilet paper and food. Practice kindness, calmness and patience for yourself and for the people around you. Be kind and careful out there and please share the lessons you are learning so we can all become wiser together.