Many cancer survivors or patients are considered “at-risk” or “vulnerable.” We have to be extra cautious. The facts surrounding COVID-19 change almost daily, but there are a few certainties. Those with underlying health issues are at higher risk of more severe symptoms from the virus. Chemotherapy drugs can cause long term damage to the pulmonary system. My oncologist explained that my heart and lungs are like that of someone a decade older now. The toxic chemo has aged my organs. They might not be as capable of fighting off this deadly virus.
The effects of COVID-19 on my family
My family has been home for months. My sons didn’t go to sleep away camp or even day camps. We chose not to take our annual trip to Colorado because I was advised not to fly. My sons are on screens too much. Summer in the south is hot, and the only respite is the occasional trip to the pool with a reservation.
My husband picks up the groceries, take-out meals, and takes the boys to their doctor appointments. I stay at home. I walk the dog every day. I am not comfortable going to public spaces. I have ventured to the pool under duress. I wear a mask when encountering any humans outside my family.
If I get sick, it will likely be from someone bringing it into my home. I have allowed my youngest to ride bikes and play outside with friends at a distance, but it is hard to keep them that way. My oldest sees one friend, but he too has a family and siblings out in the world. My husband plays golf and tennis with other people. My middle son has a history of asthma and respiratory issues since he was a baby. He is vulnerable too.
Togetherness is wearing thin
The summer has dragged. We all feel cooped up. The togetherness has worn thin. School starts in a couple of weeks. I experienced quarantine when I was going through treatment almost two years ago for Hodgkin lymphoma. I was neutropenic. I was in a bubble of fear. Now we are all gripped with fear of this global pandemic. We have all been in a bubble together. It will burst when the boys go back to school. I want them to learn and grow and live. Yet I am terrified of them bringing this deadly virus home.
The youngest children will wear masks at school and social distance. Still, they will be in-person to maximize their learning. My two older sons will be doing a hybrid of remote learning and in person. We will be vigilant about masks, hand washing, and social distancing, but it is not foolproof. Every interaction is a calculated risk.
I have my oncologist appointment soon. The bloodwork and scans since remission have been my most significant cause for worry until now. I am blessed to be with my family. When I was going through my treatments, I prayed every day for remission to live a grateful life with my sons. I try to remember that prayer and appreciate all of this together time. We will bide our time as safely as we can.
Editor’s note: This article was published on August 19, 2020. Further developments in what we know about COVID-19 are continuously emerging.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?