The Great Equalizer: COVID-19 and Cancer

May 31, 2020

COVID-19 and cancer are very different in how they work in the body, but the psychosocial challenges they present are also very familiar.

I remember as a young child saying to my parents that it was not fair when a child died of cancer. My father who was a school principal and loved children said to me, “Cancer is no respecter of age.”

As I grew up, I realized more and more how right he was. Illness can strike any of us at any age. It does not just pick out one race, or religion, or color or creed. A cancer cell can mutate within anyone, rich or poor, or in between.

Fast forward to COVID-19. Somehow the virus can get into our bodies and give us this horrible disease. I keep saying that one little bat humbled the entire world and turned our axis upside down. Ohio, where I live, states that the age ranges for getting this disease in Ohio range from less than one year to 108 years old! The number of deaths increases significantly after age 60. This is why the elderly are advised to stay home.

I do want to state here that poverty does make a huge difference in the treatment of illnesses. This is not equal, and we know those of us who are fortunate to have insurance will get better treatment than those who do not. This is a travesty, and smarter people than I cannot figure out how to get basic health needs to everyone. However, all of us are vulnerable to getting a cell mutation or a virus.

I am not saying this to be a downer. I also am not saying we have no control. All of us eventually pass away, some at an early age, some later. We can exercise, use good nutrition, maintain weight control, and other factors. But we are all keenly aware that sometimes none of this helps.

Illness is a great equalizer and can attack any of us, anytime, anywhere, at any age. So what is the solution? Not to worry about it, but to live, to celebrate, to make every day special.

Many of us are sheltering in place, but we can still celebrate the sun, the rain and rainbow, the smell of fresh coffee, the calls and Zooms and Facetime with friends and family, reading a good book or even watching a sappy movie. We are all different, but in many ways we are equal.

We can enjoy life no matter our economic status, age, wealth, or circumstance. To waste a single day — even when cooped up inside is foolish for any of us.

Celebrate each and every day because it is a gift!


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