How Do Cancer Survivors Tiptoe into the World Again?

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A cancer survivor explains how she is approaching her reentry into the world after COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

I think I am typical of many people who suffered from isolation and lack of social opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. I couldn’t wait to join the world again. I know when the pandemic and the lockdowns started, none of us realized it would be 14 months before we began a semblance of normalcy. Generally, when it comes to social situations and going out, I am like a steamroller blasting full steam ahead and extremely enthusiastic.

But – wait. Experts and psychologists warned us that it would be more difficult than we thought to return to our former routines. They warned us about the dangers of going back too soon and to be careful. Mixed messages were being given concerning masks and social distancing. We were told we needed to adjust mentally and physically. This became much harder than most of us thought it would.

We cancer survivors have an extra burden because of compromised immune systems and the necessity of keeping medical treatments and appointments just to stay alive. We have to go out in many instances but be more careful than most people.

Additionally, those of us with incurable cancers want desperately to see our loved ones again, because of the marching on of time. We ask ourselves how many more opportunities we will have with our loved ones. I know all of us are aware of this to some extent, but it seems more acute when diagnosed with a deadly illness.

To my surprise, in some ways I felt like it was easier during the lockdown because we were being told exactly what we could and could not do. But it was also horrible, and we missed seeing and hugging friends and loved ones, especially those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Presently, I am getting an avalanche of people wanting to see me for the first time in over a year. I have to decide (except for medical appointments) whether to wear a mask or not, whether to be in large crowds, whether or not to hug people, and most of us are still sanitizing. I know some people who are so traumatized they still aren’t going out to restaurants or any social events. Others are avoiding crowds and sports events. Churches are offering a plethora of options from online to in-person with masks to being completely open.

I have to be honest and admit that while I am social, I sort of miss the excuse of not going out nearly every single night. I became very comfortable with Zoom. I think part of it is the fatigue from my cancer, which I hate to talk about. I also have a profound hearing loss and it is very difficult to understand conversations, and I am constantly frustrated from missing a lot of conversations.

What to do, what to do, what to do?

Probably most of us do not want to be home and unable to go out. It was horrible not being able to celebrate special events and holidays with loved ones. We also do not want to move like freight trains mowing down everything and everyone.

I call it tiptoeing. I go out frequently to meet friends. I joyously attend church. I am going to postponed wedding celebrations once again. However, I am waiting to travel, to go to a baseball game, and do not know if I ever will feel safe on a cruise again! Meanwhile, I am just grateful to be able to see my loved ones again, and isn’t that what life is all about?

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