Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.
A cancer survivor explains why being in remission feels similar to worrying about getting COVID-19.
My cancer journey, like everyone else, has been unique and it seems to get weirder by the day. I received two wonderful pieces of news during the COVID 19 pandemic.
The first was that I am in remission again! My blood counts are stable and I feel thrilled, humbled, excited, and scared all at the same time. This array of emotions is familiar to many of us.
The second wonderful news I received was that the long-awaited new chemo that targets my rare type of cancer had finally been approved by the FDA. I was pleasantly surprised that this cancer research was continuing during the pandemic, and all the energy was not just going to COVID 19. However, I understand scientists and experts need to find a vaccine for this horrible disease that is killing so many people all over the world. Presently, I do not need the chemo but it is there if and when I do! My doctor wisely is not prescribing it until she needs to.
I have already been blessed to live longer than anticipated, and to have some more time is indeed a gift.
However, she rightly cautioned me that remission could stop and go south at any time. I left her office both exhilarated and scared. I am on a high because of this wonderful news but worried about how long this remission will continue.
I think COVID 19 has humbled the entire world. I never thought a pandemic would sweep this country and every other one so quickly. We all have watched the devastating news about people dying, gravely ill, first responders and people in the front lines in constant danger, economic disaster, people starving and on and on. This presumably started with a diseased bat virus being transmitted to a human, resulting in worldwide devastation. This is similar to one little cancer cell in our bodies, causing a potentially deadly cancer. I am constantly worried about doing all the right things like wearing my masks, gloves, disinfecting, social distancing washing hands, and all the instructions we are given every day. Some people are asymptomatic, while others are critically ill on ventilators.
I recently told someone I have decided this virus is a big crapshoot, who gets it or not. This is similar to who gets cancer or reoccurrence or not.
Just like my worries about going out of remission, I worry about COVID 19.
I have to take every single day as a gift. If I sit around the house (which a lot of us are doing right now) worrying about the virus, it will not help one bit.
I need to use common sense and go on with my life, even inside four walls, except for occasional trips out for groceries. I need to use every precaution. But fretting just takes another day away from fun activities like writing, reflecting, journaling, watching movies, reading, and talking to loved ones via Zoom and technology.
The same thing is true of remission. I can worry, but none of that helps. I know remission will not last forever, but why waste time stewing, which is fruitless. Cancer survivors are better off than other people because we have already learned how precious life is.
Yes, remission is the same as COVID 19. We do the best we can to prevent being sick. However, we know we cannot afford to waste precious time every day that we are enjoying life and our loved ones!