Precautions During the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Cancer Survivor

March 17, 2020

One cancer survivor takes a look at how he is taking precautions during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and how common-sense solutions are often the most effective.

One of my best friends who has been there for me in my now over six-year pancreatic cancer journey texted me, “Hey … Keep calm and Jesus on.” I texted back, “After what I’ve been through COVID-19 is just another day.” Another good friend emailed me, “It would be such a shame to beat cancer and get taken out by this nasty little virus”. I could not agree more.

So, what am I doing to manage my exposure risk? (No medical advice here just common sense.)

Staying home.

Fortunately, my job allows me to work from home. For the most part, I have chosen not to go out unless it’s essential.

Maintaining social distancing.

If I must go out, I try to keep at least six feet between me and others. People understand this and are not offended in the least. Those who care about you will too. Elbow bumps are preferred over handshakes. No contact is even better.

Avoiding large gatherings.

I like to interact with people — but right now it isn’t worth the risk. With this virus being asymptomatic in some people, that is not showing symptoms, and the lack of testing, who really knows the actual infection rate. Between Facetime and Skype, it’s click-click to meet virtually. Facebook Messenger video chat is yet another option. (Of course, an internet connection is needed.)

Washing my hands.

My days of a splash of soap and five seconds of running water over my hands are over. The general guidance is to wash our hands with soap for 20-seconds, not just our palms but their backs and in between our fingers too. I’m sticking to that.

Avoid touching my face.

I struggle with this. I’ve thought about shopping Amazon for a device that will handcuff my hands to my waist. If someone hasn’t invented it yet, I am sure they will soon. I just saw an ad for a wristband that buzzes if you raise a hand to your face. Do I need to wear one for both wrists?

Not going out to eat.

I feel bad for the many workers who depend on their foodservice jobs to put food on their table and pay rent. Given this, there is a lot of financial pressure on them to push it and go to work. (I would feel the same.) This is not to mention at a restaurant we do not know the people around us or who may have sat in the booth before us. So, going out to eat is not worth the risk. Besides reducing my exposure risk, eating at home is less expensive.

Missing the gym.

This one is hard for me. With me being a borderline diabetic, I go to the gym to help me control my blood sugar and manage my day-to-day stress. But do the benefits outweigh the risks? Sadly, no. Even though I have a lot of back pain from three crushed vertebra courtesy of my abdominal radiation, I will be taking long walks for exercise.

Avoiding unnecessary travel.

My wife and I had been scheduled to go to Austin to see my daughter and her husband but now that trip is in jeopardy. Like travel from Europe and other places in the world, who knows if state-to-state travel might be banned also. No one even considered March Madness would be canceled.

Avoiding exposing people over sixty.

Last week I visited a nursing facility where my mom is receiving living assistance. It was a critical trip I couldn’t postpone. Banners were posted everywhere saying “Essential Visits Only”. Some states are banning visits to these facilities altogether. So even if we aren’t showing symptoms, we should avoid unnecessary visits with our elderly relatives (or our younger relatives should avoid visiting us). Their lives, and ours, depend on it.

Layoff the news.

This isn’t an official guideline, however, I’m not sure about anyone else but the news I watch is really getting annoying. They’ve taken to running the same loops of COVID-19 doom and gloom over and over. Nothing new. It’s to the point where like the before takeoff lectures about such and such plane I don’t hear a word. I have lost count of how many so-called experts have told me to wash my hands. Enough already, I get it.

Considering the above, most of all I’m staying calm. Worry only begets more worry. After all, after what I’ve been through COVID-19 is just another day.


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