3 months ago
Thoughts From a Cancer Mom: What It’s Like Going Through Treatment During COVID
I am someone who does not take any risks when health is concerned. Our family started isolating a week early last year, months before our daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis. Yes, our circumstances are different than most, but we are not that unique and as a society, we have completely let down those who are at-risk. How can we care so little about the elderly, unvaccinated children, and everyone with health issues? We unmasked too soon, unvaccinated people are spreading COVID to those of us who have done our part, and now healthy children – the one group that wasn’t vulnerable – are getting sick.
Today, I want to talk about what it’s like living the way we do, watching others disregard COVID, and the need to protect my daughter who has been in treatment for Leukemia since May 2020.
From always wearing a mask indoors to isolating when everyone went back to normal, it has been an extremely lonely sixteen months. It was my hope that we could make the most of these summer months, and sure, we had a few patio lunches, but I’m now back to not being able to see vaccinated friends outside unless we are six feet apart. Pardon my language but this is completely fucked. I’m not sure I can eloquently put into words what it feels like to see parents hope that schools are unmasked this fall. I am appalled and have had to unfollow quite a few people this year. We were so close to being able to send Margot to preschool two hours a day and now? Not a chance.
We had this. We were so close. Vaccinated adults could safely see each other indoors. The CDC made a huge mistake saying vaccinated people could unmask indoors without proof, because those who weren’t vaccinated took advantage of this honor system. We did not consider unvaccinated children or those who are at risk when those decisions were made – we know our country is not ready for an honor system. Now we’re seeing delta spread through the vaccinated because of the unvaccinated. I’m now forced to stop doing the very few things that made my life feel remotely normal. My friend’s healthy kids are starting to get COVID. Vaccinated adults are getting sick. All because we couldn’t wear masks for a little bit longer.
I understand some people fear vaccines and not everyone can get vaccinated, but if you can’t or won’t get vaccinated, wear a mask. Distance. Don’t go to events or do anything indoors unmasked. It’s really that simple.
We were so close to things feeling normal, and now I can’t see my vaccinated friends outside unless we’re distanced. Dining on patios is over for me. The thought of passing delta to Margot, her immune system being even more suppressed, ending up in the hospital, and having to hold her chemo doses while she recovers (which increases the risk of relapse) is not a risk I can take. I realize that not everyone has vulnerable kids to worry about but why don’t we care enough about everyone to live carefully? I can tell you that we’d be very careful if our kids were healthy because the alternative feels incredibly selfish and reckless.
Childhood cancer without a pandemic is a horrible and isolating thing to go through. Some of my friends have been truly wonderful, but there are others who over the course of the last sixteen months just moved on with their lives, went back to normal, and forgot about us. The friends who haven’t checked in in months are no longer friends, and I have to tell you – it happens to all of us. I’m in a support group with 45 moms and we’re all sharing the same stories. The same fears. It’s really lonely, so add in a pandemic and the inability to even see friends and being forgotten is magnified.
I get messages telling me how strong I am and how we’re warriors – as if I was equipped to watch my child go through this. I can’t tell you how often people tell me they “can’t even imagine” what I’m going through. I get it – you think this won’t happen to you. I thought the same thing. Those words tell me that they are either completely void of all empathy or just can’t go there. Pretty sure it’s the latter.
Oh, that poor family. Must be awful for them. Yes. Yes it is.
This isn’t just about Margot, but the past year and-a-half forced me to think of everyone who is at risk as well as those who weren’t at risk but lost their lives to covid. You’d think the elderly would be enough of a reason to be careful but we’ve made it pretty clear that we don’t value them. I lost my great aunt to COVID because an unvaccinated person got her sick. She died alone and I was unable to attend her funeral.
We would have been forced to isolate last winter to protect Margot, and the added fear of COVID was too much. As someone who runs anxious when things were normal, it was a nightmare. Watching others disregard how serious this was really took a toll on me. I don’t say this to sound judgmental but want to share my experience as someone who wants to keep her child out of the hospital. Watching everyone traveling, attending gatherings, planning weddings – it all felt so unnecessary and so unbelievably careless. And here we are with the worst case of deja vu, about to go into another fall and winter, fully prepared to spend the coming months alone.
I’m not trying to bash everything – certain things were once safe. All outdoor activities did feel safe. A vaccinated person masked and traveling feels safe. Taking a baby indoors where the vaccine statuses of those around you are unknown is mind-boggling, but it is what it is. Dining indoors or going to the grocery store when unvaccinated people are spreading COVID all feels so unnecessary. We were so close, and now we’re on our way back to where we started.
I know the pandemic has been hard for everyone and we’ve all been impacted in one way or another – no part of me is implying that people’s families, businesses, and lives haven’t been torn apart. I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, but I can speak for those of us who have so much at risk. I can tell you that parents walking their kids through cancer treatment are enraged and terrified. We’ve been in a lonely bubble, and it’s so unfair that after doing things right, the little normalcy we had is now gone.
Please consider others like us. look at the science. At the data. Be safe. Wear a mask. And if you’re on the fence, please get vaccinated.
We are in this together, and the entire experience has magnified why so little funding goes to childhood cancer. All it has taught me is that we as a society truly do not value those who are sick or at-risk. It’s selfish.
I realize this post may seem extreme to some but how can I be anything other than extreme when it comes to keeping my daughter safe and to thinking of others? If I don’t do everything in my power to keep her safe, no one else will, and I feel an immense sense of responsibility to use this platform to advocate for others.
Please get the vaccine if you are able.
And wear a mask.