Covid and Me
The company I work for is being forced to undergo a lot of changes and, to support the staff, recently engaged a facilitator to lead us through the change cycle so we could better understand what might be happening to ourselves and our colleagues as we move forward. The example the facilitator used to initiate some reflection and discussion was the question of how Covid 19 had impacted us both personally and professionally and if we thought we were through managing that change.
I gotta say that the thought that came into my head was one of the biggest “AHA” moments I have had in years.
The first feelings I have when I think of the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic are not despair, or fear, or anxiety. Have I felt them along the ways in spurts and flashes? Of course I have. I have felt despair for the losses others have endured, anxiety that people would be hungry or cold because of job losses, fear that someone I love would end up with the worst case scenario degree of illness if they contracted it. But the biggest emotion I feel when I think of the pandemic is a deep well of gratitude.
My daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 years of age in March of 2019. The biopsy was done in early March, her lumpectomy was done on March 27th, a second surgery due to suspicious margins was done at the beginning of May, fertility preservation the middle two weeks of May, port implantation shortly thereafter and then chemo started on May 29th. Chemo ended on October 8th, third surgery on November 20th, 6 weeks of radiation January to mid-February, 2020 and then a trip to California to celebrate the end of active treatment the last week of February, 2020. I put her on the plane home on February 27th promising that I would fly up for the cancerversaries that were to come so she wouldn’t have to be alone.
And three weeks later the world, quite literally, shut down.
And this is where the gratitude part comes in. I drove my child to the hospital for her surgeries and was able to wait inside and then be with her in recovery rooms. I held her in my arms as she wept about the hair loss and then went with her to the stylist when she decided that waiting for it to fall out was worse that deciding to have it gone. I sat at her shoulder and advocated for her to have more medication when the stuff they gave her during her egg retrieval wasn’t working and tears of pain were pouring down her cheeks. I went with her for every single infusion that went into her port, finding her warm blankets and adjusting her pillows as she tried to get some rest. I drove her to all but one of the radiation treatments because even though it was easier the brain fog wouldn’t let go and she didn’t feel safe driving herself. I held her hand each time someone on the oncology team would drop one of those lovely BTW bombs that turned the knife just a little bit more. I anxiously perched on the edge of the chair in her surgeon’s office waiting for her to come in from the exam room where we together heard the results of the final surgical pathology, and I wept and held her tight when it turned out the beast was dead.
That is the difference a year makes.
The helplessness I felt when my daughter was going through the experience was monumental. I was so grateful that my relationship with Adrienne and where I was at in life allowed me to be there every step of the way. I simply cannot imagine the anguish of other mothers who couldn’t be with their children because the system was so overwhelmed that it was too dangerous to let them in or travel restrictions kept them apart. I look back on what my daughter went through, what treatment did to her body and mind, and the compassion and sorrow and admiration I feel for young women who were forced to do it on their own knows no limits.
Covid 19 has had a huge direct impact, but the indirect impact on cancer patients and their loved ones is immeasurable. When we talk mental health in survivorship in the near future, we must not forget the toll pandemic isolation has taken on cancer patients and their families, the gaping wounds that will have to heal. In normal times so many of the wounds of a cancer diagnosis have nothing to do with scars we can see.
With the impact of Covid 19? I can’t even…
Mother…Grandmother…Librarian…Military Spouse…Caregiver…Family Life Educator…take your pick! Debbie Legault was born in British Columbia, Canada to a former RCAF airman father and a Scottish War Bride mother and has lived in other Canadian provinces, Germany and California. She has been married for 36 years to a Canadian Air Force Veteran and credits him with filling her life with adventure. When Debbie Legault’s children look at family photos they often comment on how many different hairstyles she has had and that pretty much is her story, that her life has taken as many turns and led her down as many paths as her hair has changed! Her latest role is as the author of Mom…It’s Cancer, the story of supporting her 27-year-old daughter, Adrienne, as they experienced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.