My worst fear came true: I was diagnosed with COVID-19 while going through cancer. Now I live my life day by day.
For more than two years, I have been reading and writing articles about the fear of cancer survivors getting the dangerous and contagious COVID-19 virus. I have been extremely careful following all the protocols advised by the experts ranging from wearing masks, sanitizing my hands and avoiding large crowds.
For two long years, I haven't climbed on a plane to visit my friends and family who live out of state. I even canceled reservations for Thanksgiving and Christmas upon the advice of my doctor when Omicron hit last fall and winter.
For two years I read anxiously about the rise and fall of cases in my area. I was fearful and apprehensive about going out of state.
Then finally, Omicron seemed to settle down. I wanted in the worst way to spend Mother’s Day with my sister. I was asked to do a program on my newest book which is slated to come out soon. I was excited to be back on the speaking circuit again and autographing my books.
For two years I had not seen my friends from another area where my sister lives, whom I had desperately missed.
I had permission from my doctor to travel and felt relatively safe. I parked my car in a local lot and was told disdainfully by the shuttle driver I no longer had to wear a mask. I explained I knew that, but I was immune compromised. When I reached the terminal, I was shocked by how few employees and passengers were masked. I proceeded carefully knowing I was double vaccinated and double boosted. I wore my N95 on the plane. I was startled that not even the flight attendants had masks and they were serving food!
I felt brave and strong that I finally had done it. When I arrived at my sister’s, I met up with friends I had known for over 50 years. The program went beautifully. We hugged and laughed and rejoiced as they told me not to wait three more years to visit.
And then, I came home with COVID-19. I went to Urgent Care and called my family doctor. I was panicked about everything from ending up in the hospital to long-haul symptoms.
I got what I described as a “sinus infection on steroids.” I was quarantined for five days and wore masks for another five days. I stayed home and prayed no one else got it.Only one other person I was in contact with tested positive and she said it was like a sinus infection.
People asked me where I got it and I replied “who knows?” Did I get it before I left, on the plane, at the program or out and about somewhere else? All it takes is one little droplet to escape someone else and enter my system. Most likely, my immune system allowed me to pick it up more easily, but I recovered fast.
Now I know I can get COVID-19, have immune problems and not land in the hospital. But the next time could be a different story. There is also the horrible feeling of exposing others who may become fatally ill.
I still get very fatigued and require a lot of sleep. The upside is that I am used to this with the various cancer treatments that I have been on. Others who are healthy complain about the fatigue of COVID-19, but we cancer survivors know it as a way of life. It’s not fun but always there.
The problem is what will I do now? Will I risk flying again? Will I ever be able to be at programs and music events again? Will I ever be able to be in a crowd again? The idea of not being able to fly and see my out-of-state relatives is a bummer.Meanwhile, cruises, which were the only way I can travel with my fatigue, are out of the question.
I realized once again that cancer survivors always live in fear of cancer returning or picking up infections like COVID-19 easily. There will most likely always be a new variant on the rise and experts say we need to learn to live with this virus and threats of another pandemic. I know we all risk this, but cancer patients seem to be reminded of it more often.
I need to make my decisions day by day. I will be careful, but not give up everything and stay home being a hermit. I need to exercise caution, but not run scared. I need to continue to seize the day, and not be paralyzed by fear. This is difficult, but all I can do is try!
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