As a Member of the Cancer Club, Coronavirus Is Not Fun

As a Member of the Cancer Club, Coronavirus Is Not Fun
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Finding the energy to write about the experience of being an immunocompromised person at the time of the coronavirus pandemic is a struggle. I’m exhausted, even though I’ve been confined to the perimeters of a 6-foot-wide, 8-foot-long couch for the entirety of the day. Well, for the week actually. But I’ve been working full days from home, quarantining, recovering from the flu, and navigating seemingly endless waves of fear, anxiety, and panic. So like most of you who are in a similar scenario, I am exhausted.

What a time to be alive.

It’s never a fun time to be a member of the cancer club, but this time is probably the worst of all, especially if you’re still undergoing treatment or recently had a stem cell or bone marrow transplant like me. Knowing I am immunocompromised while a virus is circumnavigating the globe that could and most likely would kill me should I become infected does not make for good sleep.

It didn’t help that last week, I came down with similar symptoms to those that COVID-19 presents. My fever skyrocketed to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, I developed a dry cough, was short of breath, and felt extremely ill. In a panic, I called my transplant nurse who had me come into the hospital — through the back entrance, wearing a mask and gloves — to test for coronavirus. I had the back of my throat swabbed, my blood drawn, and after ensuring I wasn’t neutropenic, I was eventually sent home. Two anxiety-filled days passed before I received the — hugely relieving — news that the results were negative.

I did, however, test positive for influenza A and was told to self-isolate for the next seven to 14 days. And so began my quarantine. I spent a month of last year in isolation in the hospital while having my bone marrow transplant so I’m used to confinement. But at least then I had doctors, nurses, and my dad doting on me. This time I was completely alone in my flat with nobody to keep me company or cheer me up. It was tough. It is tough.

Self-isolation is incredibly lonely and resulted in the biggest nosedive my mental health has taken in months. I couldn’t believe that after everything I went through last year, I was back to feeling lost, vulnerable, lonely, and scared for my health. I felt so sure that this year was going to be my chance to have fun and enjoy life again. Now this.

Still, the upside is that we’re all in this together. Last year, I felt completely separate from everyone around me. Now, we all feel separate from one another while at the same time we have never been more of a global community. There has never been a better time for us to band together and help one another. And the most effective way of helping is self-isolation. Staying in to stop the virus from spreading further is the best way to help those who are vulnerable such as the elderly and people like me who are immunocompromised.

I feel lucky that I can work from home and, unlike many, my income hasn’t been affected. I also am fortunate that I’m not in active treatment. I have many reasons to feel grateful, and I’m trying my best to focus on those instead of fear and panic. I know the safest place I could be right now is isolated at home away from danger. Still, living alone and far from friends and family is particularly challenging. For others in similar scenarios, I hope you know that you aren’t alone in feeling scared and afraid.

Taking care of your mental health is important. I have been doing this by listening to happy music, watching uplifting movies in the evenings, reading, calling and FaceTiming friends and family, dancing, stretching, practicing yoga, and keeping busy with work to occupy my mind. I try not to read too much about the virus. It’s good to stay informed but the media can instill a lot of unnecessary fear.

Stay positive, my friends. If we’re strong enough to go through cancer, we are strong enough to survive this. It can’t rain forever.

Thinking of you all,

Michelle.

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Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.

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Michelle Raphaella Fredman is a 25-year-old writer, teacher and self-proclaimed travel addict hailing from Cape Town, South Africa. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Going through cancer at such a young age was both an eye-opening and life-changing experience which in time became the catalyst to start writing and sharing her journey with the world, in the hope of helping others facing similar challenges. Her favorite past times include reading books, practicing yoga, being in the ocean, exploring the world and documenting the myriad beauties of everyday life. Currently, she's working as a full-time English teacher in Quito, Ecuador and in a few months will be moving to London to complete her masters in Journalism.

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