Living With Lynch Syndrome Prepared Me for Anxiety and Loss During COVID-19

A woman explains how living with Lynch syndrome prepared her for the anxiety felt during the COVID-19 pandemic and discusses a painful loss she experienced.

I cannot help but think living with Lynch syndrome for the past decade has somehow prepared me for the abyssal anxiety and unrelenting uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Perhaps others now have a glimpse into the daily life of those of us living with Lynch or any other charming hereditary cancer syndrome. Thoughts regarding Lynch syndrome suddenly apply to the daily grind of living through the pandemic. "Will I get sick? Is TODAY the day I get sick? Is this going to kill me? What if one or more of my family members gets it? What if they die?"

Fortunately, those that I know who contracted COVID-19 have recovered. My only and most significant loss last year was when I had to put my beloved dog Sid down. Since spring, he had been suffering from a swath of health issues, but kidney failure would ultimately be responsible for his demise.

Sid was an abused shelter dog I adopted 10 years ago after discovering I had Lynch syndrome and recovering from my prophylactic surgeries. We spent the past several years healing each other from our rather unlovely life experiences. He was a fussy little fellow as he did not like many people — Sid ignored most, and if they came too close to him or me, he met them with a growl and occasional nip. He was feisty and a stellar judge of character. Sid was The Man.

Sid had been my faithful companion and protector for the past decade; putting him down was one of the worst experiences of my life. This final act of love and compassion is always heart-wrenching.

I have suffered a lot of loss in my life, specifically within my immediate family, but Sid's death affected me like no other. The onslaught of issues and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic did not help the situation. Walking through the door to a Sidless home every day would feel like a sucker punch to the stomach.

Depression, sleepless nights and waterworks plagued me for weeks. The princely pitter-patter of his feet on the wooden floors was gone. So was the daily routine I had with him. I missed his unconditional love. I missed my shadow.

Sid was not the first dog I have lost — I had lost one 10 years before finding Sid. Dogs are not fungible, but I did not want to wait too long to give another dog a good home, so I began looking for one. After meeting with many dogs at PAWS, a no-kill shelter in Chicago, I found a half-Chihuahua, half-Dachshund puppy.

Overwhelmed by this puppy's loving and sweet disposition, she deserved to be called Meli – the Greek word for honey. Meli has become the salve for some of the pain I feel for Sid. She has brought tremendous joy and positive energy back into my life. While I still miss Sid every day, Meli has lessened my grief and made coming home a joy once again.

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