A Blood Cancer Survivor's Thoughts and Fears About Coronavirus

I was awake this morning at 3:30 am thinking about the coronavirus and its impact on the elderly and those with impaired immune systems. Much to my dismay, I fit in both categories as I turn seventy this summer and am a blood cancer survivor with a less than optimal immune system.

The importance of hand washing

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and medical experts are stressing the importance of handwashing to prevent the spreading of this COVID-19 virus. As a former nurse, hand hygiene has always been a priority. I taught my students the importance of thorough handwashing and even singing the song, “Happy Birthday,” to ensure adequate time duration.1

I am trying to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by doing the following:

  • Frequent handwashing
  • Readily available hand sanitizer (placed in my purse and my car) for when I cannot wash my hands
  • Use of barriers when opening doors, using gas pump, etc. As a habit, I always use a paper towel to turn on and off faucets and open doors in a public restroom. I will also be wiping down the handle of the shopping cart prior to using. I also wipe down exercise equipment at the gym before and after use.
  • Avoiding handshaking and replacing with a wave. I had already stopped shaking hands during our Mass in church. Instead, I smile and wave.
  • Avoiding contact with sick people
  • Avoiding large crowds or group gatherings
  • Staying home if I am not feeling well and keeping in contact with my health care provider

In my prior role as a nurse executive, we planned and educated our staff for Emergency Preparedness in case of disasters or epidemics of contagious diseases. This included use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety strategies. Recently, I consulted with a colleague and discussed the actions in place by her organization to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

My steps for improving my immune system

I have been taking the following steps to try to improve my immune system.

  • Good nutritional intake of fruits and vegetables. I am trying to increase these healthy nutrients and lessen my desire for candy and cake.
  • Plenty of sleep. Fortunately, I love to sleep so tonight’s insomnia is most unusual.
  • Daily exercise. I am walking on the beach every day, which provides me with exercise and stress reduction as I relax and meditate.
  • Manage and reduce stress.

Dealing with fear and panic

Fortunately, I am away on vacation enjoying the sun and beach but am concerned as to whether I can attend upcoming events. The media coverage has unfortunately added to public fear and panic.

I am a rational, educated healthcare professional but am genuinely concerned.

Should we cancel our long-planned sixteenth birthday celebration for my granddaughter, which included a trip to Europe? I do not want to jeopardize my health or any of my family’s health and wellbeing. Will I need to cancel my attendance at the 125th-anniversary celebration of my nursing school or will the event be canceled?

The unknown is frightening. However, we need to keep abreast of the latest information about COVID-19, ask questions, and take appropriate action. As I look at the sunrise over this beautiful ocean this morning, I will remember that we are survivors who need to enjoy each moment as a gift, and we WILL manage this current situation with strength and fortitude.

Editor's note: This article was published on March 11, 2020. Further developments in what we know about COVID-19 are continuously emerging.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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