Cancer and COVID-19 took away my yearly “benchmarks” of time, when I fly out to see friends and family.
I usually try to be positive and upbeat when writing my articles for CURE and interacting with other people because I know the entire world needs that. But I also try to be honest about my feelings. This essay is an honest one.
My family has always made a big deal about holidays. My mother and aunts would prepare for weeks ahead, and we would get together having wonderful times, reminiscing and eating great foods.
My sister picked up the mantle and has incredible decorations, meals and get together in her lovely home. She makes a point of inviting people who have no family or others with family out of town. These people have been joining our holidays for years, and we have become family to each other and have wonderful times. My sister’s son, daughter in law, grandson and I fly in from out of state and it is a huge reunion.
When I was little kid, it seemed forever between one Christmas and the next. I was sorry I had to wait a whole year and called these occasions my benchmark. No matter how rotten the year was, or what happened in between, there was always the holidays to get back on track.
COVID-19 changed this for everyone. Each holiday, no matter what religion or creed, people hoped for a vaccine so they could be together with loved ones. We began to hope there would be boosters when the vaccines did not provide enough immunity.
I finally thought we were back to “normal,” made reservations to fly and the Omicron hit. Regretfully, upon the advice of my oncologist, I cancelled my flight and my Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. After Omicron passed, I decided to fly to my sister over Mother’s Day weekend with permission granted by my oncologist.
I was excited to see all the friends I knew there. I was in my element as they told me not to wait three years to come again. Three days later I tested positive for COVID-19. I was mostly frightened I had spread it all around, but thankfully only one person did, who thinks she got it somewhere else. I quarantined and did all the things I was supposed to do.
Now I find it difficult to be positive. I gave up my beloved cruises. I gave up many get togethers. I no longer went anywhere with large groups. But this is the hardest for me. The doctors have advised me against flying for a while. I lost my favorite benchmark of being together for special occasions. Little did I realize when this cancer saga began how much it would impact me, not to mention the impact COVID-19 has.
Frankly – it sucks. Yes, we cancer survivors are grateful to be alive, but cannot do many of the things we want to. We must always balance whether we risk infections to do what we love and live for alongside the fear of getting horribly ill and dying. We realize our time on earth may be limited and we want to be with the people we love. Yes, we are grateful for what we have, but want more. I don’t think anyone even dreamed in March of 2020 we would still be battling this horrible pandemic in 2022.
Meanwhile I have been planning some driving vacations that aren’t too far. I look longingly at the cruise brochures that come in the mail and hope for a booster that someday eliminates all recurrence of COVID-19. But I realize it will probably not happen in my lifetime.
It is increasingly difficult to be optimistic. However, being a cancer survivor does teach me to be grateful for what I have, and to survive this hurdle too. Meanwhile I am forced to set some different benchmarks.
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