Quarantine Advice from a Cancer Survivor

As I write this post, I’m on day 35 home because of the COVID-19 crisis in New Jersey and around the world. As someone who recently finished treatment for cancer, this pandemic came at a particularly scary time. Back in March I wrote a post reminding people that social distancing was important to keep people like me safe. But as this virus has continued to spread we have seen that victims can be anyone: young, old, healthy, or sick. I think in general people have realized the seriousness of this illness. Despite a few holdouts, it appears many of us are doing our part to flatten the curve by staying home.

I’ve heard people are saying that cancer patients have a unique perspective to this pandemic. We’re often described as examples of strength while facing our illness. We are used to waking up each day unsure of what will come next, analyzing our bodies wondering if everything is normal or if our disease is back. Staying home to stay safe is not new for many of us that have had our immune systems compromised by treatment. The major difference between our fears of the novel coronavirus and cancer is the entire world is in this battle together.

While in treatment for cancer you hear a lot of advice about living your life once it’s over. You’re told to accept that your life has forever been changed and you will find a new normal. I think that is what our world is facing right now. We are in the midst of an intense battle against an invisible enemy, a virus. Just like my cancer, most of us don’t feel sick, but the treatment (isolation) is weighing on us. When this is over, our daily lives will likely return to what they were before, but we will all be changed by this experience. To those overwhelmed by fear and stress from these uncertain times, my advice is to try to enjoy at least one moment each day. We never know what lies ahead, so we must make the most of the journey.

So what did we do to brighten the time in quarantine? Meet Jameson, a tiny Maltese who joined our family on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2020. Weighing in at just over 1 pound, this little pup quickly took over our home and our hearts.

Jameson loves to play and has learned to sit and stay. Ice cubes are his favorite toy, and he’s been enjoying “long” walks in town. Potty training and sleeping in the crate have been challenging, but he’s getting there. We’re still on the fence about whether this was the best idea or worst idea!

Remember, it’s okay to not be okay all of the time. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or anxious. It’s also important to acknowledge and feel your emotions because they are valid. Bottling them up will only cause them to come out in unexpected ways. I have found journaling to be a helpful way to get what I’m feeling out and then moving on. Find something that works for you and stick with it. Maybe next week I’ll be reading your first blog post.

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