Guilt and other COVID-19 feels I’m having right now
As I approached the front doors, there were signs indicating who could enter which door. I found the appropriate door that said Patients, pressed the accessible door open button with my elbow and entered, making sure I didn’t touch anything with my hands. Immediately, I see people in booths with masks on. I’m waved over to a booth and asked, “Do you have a cough? Do you have a fever? Do you have shortness of breath?”, etc. I answer, “No” confidently to all their questions and am granted access to enter, but not without first using the hand sanitizer.
No, this wasn’t at the airport or a border crossing. This was at my cancer hospital last week during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Being a cancer patient right now is stressful (well it is stressful on a good day, so now it is so much worse). I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer four years ago and am currently doing hormone therapy (Tamoxifen and a monthly Zoladex injection) for the next seven years. To add to the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been a Tamoxifen shortage for several months, so the pharmacies are only dispensing one month at a time (instead of the usual three months). My monthly injection appointment was last week so I had to venture to my cancer hospital to pick up both medications that are supposed to be keeping the cancer away.
My immune system is back to normal now that I’m so far out from chemo and my last surgery but I was acutely aware that most of the people in this hospital were immuno-compromised. I didn’t sit in a chair waiting for my number to be called at the pharmacy and I stood as far away from everyone as I could. I tried to not even breathe around people. There were only two other people in the waiting room, which is normally packed at 9a.m. on a weekday.
After I picked up my medication, I walked across the street to my family doctor’s office to have my injection administered by a nurse. Again, there were two other people in this waiting room, both were pregnant. I was relieved when my nurse said she thought sticking to my monthly injection schedule was necessary. I was feeling guilty for being a burden on her already busy and stressful day. I don’t think I’m in any immediate risk if I were to stop these medications until the pandemic is over but no one knows how long this will last and if you’ve read my story before, my oncologist does not want me to pause the hormone therapy to have a baby, so I’m sure any break is not a good thing. But again, I felt guilty for taking up someone else’s time who could be in worse shape than me right now. In the end I felt safe and relieved when it was over (at least for the next 27 days until my next shot).
I’m one of the lucky ones. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be newly diagnosed starting chemo or needing surgery, while living in a pandemic. And what about all those living with MBC? The fear they must be feeling right now is huge.
The life of a cancer patient is forever changed. It is harder than it was before. But my social feeds are filled with people trying to bring positivity and gratitude to the world right now, even with cancer stress looming over their heads. My fellow breasties are pros at self-isolation and I’m learning a lot from them, like how to join virtual dance lessons, or how to have a virtual double date night in. The world will continue and I will try to wake up with gratitude every day. – Emily Piercell