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 writes about all the little things she has missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those little things — such as going to a diner and connecting with friends — are now appreciated more than we ever would have imagined, she writes.
I am very social and along with my hearing ear dog, we used to go out to eat all over town. This dog was so shy when first rescued, that the trainers were not certain she could be a service dog. However, after going with me for 13 years, she has become extremely outgoing. People greeted us wherever we went, and she would sometimes be given a treat or a bone.
We would go to our small church and I would keep my popular lab out of the vest. She would go up the aisle, following me to the front while stopping to be petted at every pew. We had a good life. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut us down.
After the pandemic, we would go through the drive-through with her head hanging out the window. Occasionally we would go to a coffee shop in off-hours with few or no other customers there. I had been feeling low for a long time and knew it was the pandemic. I just did not know how much it was affecting me. After my second vaccine and several days had passed, I visited a small local diner with a friend, who has also been vaccinated. The diner was busier than I anticipated, but they gave us special seating in the back.
A man approached and asked if this was the same dog I used to have when I visited another restaurant that closed due to COVID-19. I could not hear him, but my friend interpreted for me. I affirmed that it was the same dog. Another person walked up and remembered me from going to the same doctor. A third person came up and asked the name of my dog.
The last person who strode over to us warmed my heart. He remembered me as a guest lecturer in a class at a local university over 15 years ago! I praised him, because he is working in the rehabilitation field, which is the same one I was in and taught for several years. I also told him how much it meant that he remembered me.
This is what I have missed, and many of us have.With my cancer and pandemic uncertainty, I have been depressed while wondering if I ever will feel free to climb on an airplane or go on a cruise again. I think many of us cancer survivors feel this way, and with our compromised immune systems, it is worse for us.
But meanwhile, celebrate each milestone! I was in a community with people who remembered me and my sweet dog. I visited with a good friend and we shared a delicious dessert. No social media, takeout, or pick-up can replace this. So while most of us cancer survivors aren’t going on our beloved vacations and are avoiding crowds, sports events, plays and concerts; we may be able to with time.
Meanwhile, we can go to a local diner and connect as humans, masks and all. This is what we have missed, and now appreciate more than we ever thought we would.
So my friends, as soon as it is safe, go out and connect once more, because it has been a long year and we need to try one more attempt to normalcy. We can take this one step at a time and enjoy every single day!
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