Khevin Barnes is a Male Breast Cancer survivor, magician and speaker. He is currently writing, composing and producing a comedy stage musical about Male Breast Cancer Awareness. He travels wherever he is invited to speak to (and do a little magic for) men and women about breast cancer. www.BreastCancerSpeaker.com www.MaleBreastCancerSurvivor.com
How can we relax and move forward when cancer and COVID-19 take up so much of our day?
I've always found it helpful to keep busy, connect with my hobbies and interests and leave as little room as possible for cancer to interrupt my life. But now, while this virus shutdown has impacted all of our lives, it's not always easy to stay focused on the objective of remaining both cancer and virus free.
The truth is I've never really embraced the idea of being a guy with "compromised health", until COVID-19 showed up. But unlike my breast cancer, which I've learned to ignore for the most part (unless it's time for my mammogram or blood work), I'm constantly distracted by the hourly news that offers very little to be positive about.
And so I keep busy. Actually, I keep busier than ever. But how many times can you clean out the garage?
Here in my community of 55-plus seniors, we have always had a large number of folks who walk, usually in the morning before the hot summer days push them indoors. I've seen a great increase in the foot traffic lately and a surprising upswing in the buoyant moods of my neighbors who are obviously happy to get out of the house.
Vail Arizona was designed to some extent as a haven for the "baby boomers", most of whom have retired at this point. While I haven't officially stopped working, my career as a magician/entertainer has come to a crashing halt. Interestingly, later this week I was booked for a series of shows in the state of Washington for an Earth Day celebration, an event that I was greatly looking forward to. Naturally, the festival was canceled. This morning I received an email announcing that the show has been rescheduled for April, 2021.
Of course, we have no idea how the country will look a year from now, but somehow the willingness of the show sponsors to not give in or give up reminded me that even though we've been knocked down by this crisis, the human drive to move onward and upward cannot ever be crushed.
As for how we spend all of this "downtime", music has always been my great healer. My recording studio, built in a garden shed inside our garage, has long been my "man cave" and I spend many hours out there among the blinking digital recorders and amplifiers.
I know that most of my friends and neighbors spend long hours watching television or streaming movies. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, my wife and I didn't have a television as we both found it too distracting as artists. Even before the Coronavirus showed up we each spent an average of six hours a day in our separate studios where she works as an artist in ceramics, jewelry, stained glass and painting while I mix and make music.
Fortunately for us, our daily routine has not changed much, though we have purchased a modest smart TV to see a movie or two each week. So the impact for the two of us has been minimal so far. It's hard for me to imagine how much more difficult life must be for people who have lost their daily jobs and their income, and must now hunker down in their homes with little to do.
Now is a good time to discover an interest, or talent, or challenge that life (normal life) has prevented us from fostering in the past. I remember when I was a child with lots of toys and books and puzzles in my room saying to my mother "There's nothing to do. I'm bored". She would remind me to look around to see how much was actually available— and there was plenty.
I've never been much of a book reader, preferring periodicals and scientific publications, but it seems like right now would be a perfect time to read one of the classics or find an author to follow through a themed storyline. It might be a good time to learn a new language. Start a journal or write that book you've always dreamed of creating. Meditate. Share your personal cancer story in a blog. Suddenly you'll find that your shortlist of things to do becomes longer, until it stretches out far into the future to a time when COVID-19 is no longer with us.
As for me, I'm heading back out to the music shed right now as the lyrics for a Coronavirus song have just popped into my head. The last time I looked, more than 500 songs about COVID-19 from writers all around the world were circulating on the Internet, most of them comical, and lighthearted and the perfect musical minute to put a smile on our faces while we're stuck in the house. Or the garage.