COVID-19 After Childhood Cancer: One Mom’s Perspective
April 7, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is a scary time for all of us. There is so much uncertainty, fear and isolation, and very little concrete information on what to expect. For many, it feels like stepping into a new, and very frightening, world. But for families who face or have faced a childhood illness and injury, this can all seems a bit too familiar.
Social distancing is a common practice for cancer patients and others who are immunocompromised. And the utter lack of control? That’s a rollercoaster they’ve been riding since the day of diagnosis, and even well past recovery.
Of course, that’s not to say it isn’t still hard and overwhelming. For those struggling with Medical Traumatic Stress, the COVID-19 pandemic can be incredibly triggering. However, these families’ previous experience does give them an interesting perspective.
COVID-19 After Childhood Cancer: One Mom’s Perspective
In a post on Momcology, an online support network for families affected by childhood cancer, one mother shared her thoughts on the epidemic and what families of ill or injured children can teach others as we navigate this difficult time. We are awed by her grace, wisdom and courage. With her permission, we’ve included it here in the hope that it resonates and is of use to you.
“We’ve been here before, fellow momcologist. You and me. We have sat at the place where the world unfolds to reveal all that is wrong. Where one second you’re chugging along with your normal routines and regular schedule, with predictability and familiarity and control and then in a flash it is all upended. When an obstacle not only blocks the regular path, but jumps up, grabs you, throws you to the ground and turns life completely wrong-way-round. You and I have sat in this place where you’d give anything to go back to the moment before the world crashed.
But here’s the thing – many, many, many, many people have not. There are many around us who have never walked through anything that completely unraveled their worlds. They are treading in the deep end of this pandemic having never even been thrown into the pool before. They are overwhelmed, anxious, lost, confused. They are not sure what tomorrow will look like. Or next week. Or next year. They fear that the things that they’ve held in high esteem as being important are nothing but confetti fallen to the road on New Year’s Eve, swept away forever just a few short hours later.
The world that they have known is radically different. It’s not controllable. It’s not predictable. And it is certainly not fair. And things that they never imagined not experiencing are suddenly on the table as not happening. Graduations, weddings, vacations, parties, last days of school, sport seasons, drivers tests, concerts, outings, field trips, camps. The list is long. So much taken in just a week. So much that may never get to be done, seen, accomplished, enjoyed. They’ve never sat in this place before where things are taken away and never regained.
But we have.
And we learned a lot there. A lot about what is important and what is just frivolous. What is essential in life and what is just the sprinkles on top. We have learned how to prioritize, adjust on the fly, let the unimportant things go. You and I, we have lived unfair, not right, this-just-sucks moments. A whole bunch of them in fact. We have had to make major life changes about when we go out, who we have over, when we vacation, eat out, run errands and if they get to go to school. We have clearly identified and named the things that we and our children have missed out on. And, if you’re like me, you’ve thrown some amazing pity parties for those things. Parties for the loss of innocence, for the missing of major life events, for the crappy treatments that are our only options, for the days we will never ever ever get to relive, and for the days we many never get to see. The list is long, detailed, filled to the top. We have walked through disappointments so heavy and burdensome, the imprints left on our backs from carrying them will never go away.
But we forget sometimes that not everyone has a bag already filled and has learned how to lug it along.
This is our moment to be helpers. Our moment to share the things we’ve learned about being tossed unprepared in the deep end. Our chance to throw out some floaties to those barely staying afloat. Who but us, could better walk alongside others whose worlds have been forever altered? We are well-equipped to understand, really understand what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from beneath, shattering expectations, dreams, normalcy.
But we can’t allow the fact that we’ve already walked this road and learned a lot keep us from being a help to those just now feeling the icy waters on their skin. We can’t demand that others quickly catch up to the perspective we now have, runny past their own grieving & pity parties. As we were allowed to daily live out our disappointments, fears, ‘life is unfair’ moments, we must give others that same grace. We have to move from the place I’ve found myself in lately of “I’ve already been there and done that. My life has been like this for so long, you can’t imagine. You have nothing to complain about” to “I’ve already been there and done that, I understand what you’re feeling. Let me listen and help.” Let this be a time where grace, love, empathy, understanding grow wild. And let those of us who have experienced much of this before, already walking on it’s rough and rugged path, be the waterers & light for those just stepping on.” – KMW, a mother
Our thoughts are with you as we weather this storm together. Stay healthy, stay sane and most of all, stay hopeful.