A cancer survivor reflects on how the COVID-19 pandemic can feel exhausting but notes that we can still persevere.
I maintain every one of us in the United States, and around the world, is suffering from some form of PTSD from the pandemic. It seemingly hit us out of nowhere without any warning and changed our lives forever.
We didn't have any time to prepare. In the modern world with the efficiency of weather reports, we can usually anticipate a hurricane, storm, blizzard, flood, or tornado. We stock up on groceries and hunker down. In the case of wildfires, we prepare to evacuate. None of this is easy. But this insidious, awful, unpredictable, invisible virus doesn't have dams we can build to stop it, places to go to escape, or any knowledge of when it will be over. It is unrelenting, ever pervading, sneaky, and scary.
Most people like me weren’t truly aware of how serious this was until our governor in Ohio, who reacted admirably and quickly, ordered a shutdown effective the next day. We had 24 hours to get our groceries (and toilet paper) and hunker down.
But that was four months ago. In the first few weeks, we got things done around the house like income tax and cleaning! But now we are all tired. As a nation, we have opened things up again, and things have gotten worse. Additionally, racism reared its ugly head, and protests are occurring all over the country. A horrible recent heat wave has required us to stay inside with the air conditioning. And it is not just the United States being affected, but all over the world. This tragedy truly is global!
And — you know what – I am tired. I am tired of the pandemic. I am tired of the ugly things being said to each other. I am tired of worrying every single day whether it is okay or not for me do the simplest errand like picking up groceries. I am tired of going to the cancer center every week for shots, wondering how safe I am.
I am tired of the fatigue caused by my type of cancer. I am tired of cancer. I am tired of not being able to see friends and family I love. I am tired of trying to keep my spirits up. I am tired of waking up every morning and wondering if this nightmare will ever end.
Being a cancer survivor is hard enough, and this has just made it worse. I feel like all of us have money problems, job worries, and illnesses to face, whether we have cancer or not. But the pandemic has made it much harder. I know how lucky I am, and feel terrible for all the people on the front lines, the people who have lost their jobs and are food insufficient; the students, teachers and parents not knowing if the schools will reopen, and wondering how to make sure their children are safe. I cannot imagine how tired the school officials, governors, health directors, and others are of trying to make a horrible, life-threatening decision with the pandemic statistics changing daily.
I am tired of every single day figuring out what is and is not safe to do. One wrong patio to sit on (I do not go inside any restaurant now), one wrong trip to the pharmacy or grocery store, or one wrong move could seal my fate.
I think every one of us all over the world is tired. And for the students and staff returning to school (or not) and parents planning, and teachers worrying about their own health, and front-line workers battling an invisible enemy, it is exhausting.
I have no great solutions or words on how to handle all of this, and I doubt anyone does. I do know that I have seen more people reach out than ever before. Donations of food, money, time, and looking out for neighbors are constantly happening. I witness everyone from preschoolers to the elderly getting up every single day and putting one foot in front of the other, even if it is to get dressed or try to eat. And cancer survivors have had to do this before, so we know we can do it again.
I think of the quote by the famous Robert Louis Stevenson, “Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”
Every one of us has incredible courage we never knew we could have. And the quote by Charles Baudelaire is timely, “Through the unknown we will find the new.” We need to keep on reaching out to each other, and a new world will emerge, better in some ways than we ever imagined. We are tired but know a vaccine, antibody or some medical intervention will end this nightmare. And then maybe — just maybe – we will sleep better than we ever have! And not be quite so tired.