CML Is Isolating, Too - Can We Fix That?

We’re taking isolation to the next level. I promised myself I wouldn’t write about Coronavirus more than I had to. As a journalist, I’m spending the next few weeks 24/7 covering that topic so it is, of course, on my mind. However, I feel like talking about something else even though it is kind of related.

I know I’ve mentioned hill runners before. Bless them. They couldn’t stand the heat so they removed themselves from the kitchen, the kitchen being me. Common, I know, but still hurtful, let’s be honest.

There have been big changes along the last year of this 5 ½ year journey of mine with blood cancer.

Talking about leukemia whenever I want

Instead of clamming up and not talking about chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) because it makes other people feel uneasy, I’ve elected to talk about it and my situation whenever I feel like it. I’m sure this does not delight the few who have chosen to stick around but I can’t help it. I’m learning how to be selfish, I guess. Or maybe self-preservation is a better description.

I’m exhausted from jumping through hoops of my own creation. On a positive note, I have one friend in particular who has really stepped up for me, not only since college but over these past 5 ½ years.

I must wear her out listening to me when I’m whining about whatever or having a mood. But she’s the MVP about it.

Self-care,” she’s always saying to me.

“Did you eat? Take your meds? Go eat and take your meds,” she’ll say if we’re on the phone in the evening. “Self-care.”

Over the last several years, we’ve only visited in person a handful of times. We live about two hours apart and work schedules clash, you know the drill… But we talk every couple of weeks, sometimes once a week, taking turns to “check in.” You know, like normal people.

Instead of social distancing, physical distancing

So now there is this thing called social distancing. I’ve seen the alternative term — physical distancing — and I like that one better.

Maybe I like it because I’m at a physical distance geographically from most of the non-hill runners. And the infamous runners.

Having cancer and being part of the population most at risk these days has got me thinking. So I decided to do a little experiment and reach out to a few friends to see if we could stay in touch and “socialize,” whether by phone, email or whatever.

I thought doing this periodically would make things a little easier, make people feel a little less alone. Basically, I’m trying to re-establish closeness when being apart is a must.

Many friends don't understand my CML

But it seems like even during a lockdown, that was a bust. People don’t have time, don’t want to make an effort. No one said that to me but that was the impression I got. “Likes” on Facebook and cute emojis do not friendships make. Sorry.

Social distancing is not a new thing. It’s been going on for ages. That’s why people don’t pick up the phone or have conversations anymore. Social media comments are sufficient for some. They never have been for me and sorry, that’s not going to change now — especially during a pandemic when everything, our futures, are so uncertain.

Reaching out to people outside my circle

So, what to do? In addition to maybe, just maybe, cleaning my apartment and working, I’ll reach out to people outside of my circle instead. I heard about a program where you can send cards to senior citizens (also feeling even more vulnerable and alone these days). Writing the recipient a friendly note inside would probably make someone’s day. It would mine.

Maybe I’ll make up some care packages for the future when I can deliver them in person when everyone is safe. None of us knows when that day will come.

What about you? Do you have any ideas on how we can be at a physical distance but not feel alone and isolated (share in the comments below!)?

It’s important to stay as positive as you can and practice self-care, whether you live alone or not.

Now more than ever, you need to look out for number one.

Be careful.

Editor's note: This article was published on March 23, 2020. Further developments in what we know about COVID-19 are continuously emerging.

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