By Anna-Maria Beck
The coronavirus has taken our world by storm. It is the news that is being talked about across the globe right now: where the disease is spreading, who has the disease, and so much more. The coronavirus is on everyone’s minds. For normal, healthy people, this disease is worrisome. For cancer patients, and others with underlying health conditions, this disease is life-altering.
I have been a cancer patient for 13 long years. On February 27, 2007, I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. That day changed my life forever. Throughout the last 13 years of my treatment, I have had 12 brain surgeries, nine rounds of chemotherapy and two months of radiation.
By having had this brain tumor for so long, I have had very serious life training in how to keep things sanitary and how to reduce my chances of getting sick or catching an illness from someone else. The coronavirus is no different. Except, now the whole world is having to live and do the things that I have had to do for 13 years.
For example, people are obsessively washing their hands, wiping down surfaces, wearing masks, and quarantining when sick or potentially exposed. Everyone keeps acting as if it is some big, new thing to get used to, but I have been doing these things for years.
I can promise you that I am not the only cancer patient who feels this way. You see, the cancer community is a very tight-knit one. A lot of us, especially locally, know each other and are friends with each other— cancer buddies. I have seen not one, but several, of my “cancer buddies posting about COVID-19. So, I am definitely not the only one who feels this way.
With the coronavirus, extra precautions have had to be taken along the lines of what I normally do when illnesses are being spread. My mom (who is an intelligent doctor, too) decided to pull me out of classes several days before schools were actually closed. Of course, I have missed all my friends like crazy, but I knew it was the smart thing to do. I have to wipe down all surfaces (i.e. desk, countertops, etc.) before I use them. I have to wear gloves and a mask on the rare occasions when I get to go out into public (usually just for my doctor’s appointments). Other than the doctor’s appointments, though, I am in strict isolation. Not seeing any friends. Not going out to restaurants. Nothing.
Just because I am taking the precautions that everyone should be taking doesn’t mean I am sitting here all sad and alone and not doing anything. That is just not how I roll. So what have I been doing on these dreary days to stay entertained? Is it possible to isolate yourself without going crazy from boredom? Yes, it is. I have been doing a lot of Netflix binging. I have been working a lot on my school classes that are now online. I have been doing Zumba videos on YouTube to get my exercise in. I have been working on cleaning and organizing my things. I have been doing a lot of writing, both for my classes and personal pieces. Yes, isolation without losing your mind from boredom is possible.
The next thing that I would like to point out are the symptoms of the coronavirus. Besides a fever, symptoms are basically just respiratory-related. This is very similar to a grocery list of other diseases and health issues: cold, allergies, asthma, and the flu just to name some. Just because you may not feel awful, it does not mean that you may not have the coronavirus. If you think you may have coronavirus, get tested to be sure. If not for yourself, do it for the immune-compromised people around you.
The final thing that I would like to note is that Dr. Ashok B. Raj, a doctor at my chemo clinic, gave an awesome speech at RaiseRED this year. RaiseRED is the University of Louisville’s dance marathon that raises money for my chemo clinic. Raj compared pediatric cancer to infectious diseases. His message was that we are starting to get closer with cancer to what we figured out with infectious diseases a long time ago.
With infectious diseases, scientists often know exactly what to do to combat this virus. The minute it showed up, they started to work on a vaccine. They just need time.
If you told me that there would be an easy way to get rid of my tumor, or make my tumor easy to manage, and it will be available in a certain number of months, I would be in complete shock. As a cancer patient, I’ve hoped for that day for 13 long years.
Many doctors in the world are working on what to do to find a cure for COVID-19. We just have to stay patient, healthy and follow our doctor’s orders. Because the prescription is to wear pajamas and watch Netflix with our families, I’m okay with that, and you should be, too. Stay inside, wash your hands and stay healthy.