A cancer survivor writes about the indirect consequences of COVID-19 on her and others.
I am a cancer survivor and consider myself incredibly fortunate. I have lived longer than anticipated and been in remission for a long time. Presently I am not on any chemo, but am taking weekly shots to keep my red and white blood counts up. Just like all of us touched by cancer I am immunocompromised and scared of COVID-19 and its potentially severe impact on me.
We all have experienced the fear of ourselves or our loved ones becoming ill. We are changing up our holidays and unable to celebrate the same way we did in the past. We feel terrible as we look at the long hunger lines, people losing their jobs and becoming homeless in a free-falling economy.
There are also indirect consequences or what I call the “domino effect” I never thought about. It feels like the surge that never ends.
I didn’t realize how well I had adjusted to some of the consequences until now when new challenges hit me. The first is masks. I know I must wear them, but losing so much of my hearing due to chemo has made it difficult. The inability to lip-read is crippling for me. I have a Live Transcribe app on my phone which is a huge help, but not always accurate.
The loss of my teeth due to chemo has been hard. I needed a new splint because I needed to preserve the ones I have left. It took months to receive it because of the supply chain, frustrating myself and my dentist. With less than half of the teeth left, not having a splint for a year was worrisome and I am thrilled now to have it.
Another unexpected consequence was the constant falling. Anytime I attempt to pick up something, I lose my balance. My YMCA had a fantastic Livestrong program with special trainers to work with cancer survivors, and I went weekly. Little did I realize how much these sessions worked until they were forced to eliminate the program due to COVID-19 restrictions. I took for granted how much my trainer helped me until she couldn’t.
I also have fibromyalgia and the special machines to stretch out those aching muscles are no longer used because of the danger of gyms. My legs are always twitching and my muscles aching from the side effects of the shots I am on, and walking does not help because of the fear of falling.
The other day I went to pick up my ornery cat, who was trying to run outside, I plopped square on my rear end. I held up my head so I did not hit it and started both laughing and crying— plus the cat still ran out!
I truly miss the hugs and touches of my family, friends, church congregation and caregivers. Touch is important to me, and we are not able to do this now. Never again will I take all of this for granted after COVID-19, and I do know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, food to eat and not be in the hospital with a ventilator.
The point I am making is the little things add up too. With a vaccine on the horizon, I will be able to lip-read with joy. I will hug endlessly, and I will be at the gym religiously working to get my balance back. I think often about the long haulers of COVID-19 and what they face similar to those of us who are cancer survivors, with constant side effects of either cancer or the treatment.
All we can do is take it day by day and vow to never take the little things in our life for granted again!