Life Post Cancer Treatment and Life During COVID

I remember the first moment we decided that we were going to shutter-in because of COVID. It was March 13th and I ran some errands. I was at Publix and I felt like I knew a secret no one else did– I loaded up on food and milk to get us through what I hoped would be a couple weeks (it wasn’t). It was a Friday so it was easy to slide into a typical weekend routine and just tell the kids we were eating at home and not going out for meals. 

Then we woke up on Saturday and it’s been the same day ever since. No work to go to, no school for the kids. 

We explained to the kids that we couldn’t go anywhere because of “the germs.” They didn’t put up any fights. The hardest days seem to be when it’s raining. I’ve read that while some people question whether it’s safe to go outside that health professionals encourage going outdoors in order to maintain psychological health (maintaining proper distancing, of course).When the outdoors are taken away it’s hard to come up with things to do that last longer than 10 minutes that don’t involve a screen.

We have a skeleton of a schedule. Wake-up is anywhere between 6:45-7:45am because that’s when Will gets up. Breakfast and Saturday morning shows last until about 9:30 and this is usually enough time to shower (if showering happens that day) or have some sort of basic adult morning routine. Then I take Will for lessons and Mina does the school work that is sent to her on her take-home chromebook. This will last 35 minutes if we’re lucky. 

It seems like all we’re doing is trying to survive until the next meal. I was a summer camp counselor during summers at college and those camp days always revolved around meals. Just make it to the next meal. Now it’s the same in our house-camp of four heartbeats. 

Trying to get the kids to buy into stretching out the shelf-life of milk and some foods is next to impossible. 

We try to bike up to Mina’s school every day. There’s a large boulder there that parents paint for kids’ birthdays. Parents are still painting it almost daily. 

Will at the rock at school. Still in PJs.

You can stay up late because there’s no point in setting an alarm. Nights can be a wasteland. Stay up to enjoy the quiet you don’t get with the kids. Realize it’s too late. Drag yourself to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I alternate between being in the Land of the Lotus and switching into Odysseus, forcing his crew back to the ship and starving them so they remember their duties. 

In early March I had the flu, but it didn’t come back positive on the flu test. At the time I thought there was no way it was the c-word. But now. Who knows?

Since then I’ve had to venture into the hospital and the cancer center to get my scheduled MRI (for my brain) and PET scan (for the rest of my body). That was an ordeal but the results were mostly good. There is some “activity” showing in the cavity (where my tumor was removed) on my MRI but it is most likely the way the scar tissue is developing. There’s no way to know until my next scan in three months.

My ear problem seems to have gone away, thankfully. I thought I would “hear” it open back up and something would fall out to signal the return but no, it was just a slow healing process with ringing in my right ear continuing for a few weeks. Then it was gone. I’m back to hearing in both ears. There’s no ringing.

My worst fears were that the ear infection and ringing were symptomatic of something darker happening in my brain. But my last appointment with my oncologist had my plainness pounded into me. I’m a cancer survivor post-treatment, with clear scans and nothing emergent. If my ear bothers me, see my primary. Message received, doc.

Living in always-Saturday has reinforced some of this post-treatment plainness. I’ve been scared to ride a bike since my surgery because of the delicate nature of my noggin. I thought I would need a special helmet and would need to take it very slow.  But…with the necessity of activity for the kids, it’s forced the issue. We’re going for a bike ride! Everyday! 

Meals on the deck are a nice way to enjoy the day.

On the precipice of my 1 year anniversary since the hospitalization and brain surgery, I feel like I am taking my first steps into typical daily life. It just happens to be in the midst of COVID-19.

Grocery run with homemade facemask.

Some of the best practices I’ve built have been decimated. Before all of this, I would meditate daily, drink hot green tea every evening, write my blog weekly, and read deeply spiritual books. Those things, due to the indulgent perpetual Saturday feel, seem to be on an indefinite hiatus. 

But there have been bright spots. The kids are getting along better than ever. They’ve adapted quickly and have the time to enjoy being siblings that weekly school routine didn’t let them have. I’m spending more time with them. I get to read a Dad-book along side Mina every night who is reading her Nancy Drew books. Will has developed his first video game addiction to Sonic Dash on the ipad– I have a strange sense of pride and annoyance. And I do find the time to work on some long neglected projects during quiet times and bedtimes. I’m connecting with old friends in new ways, thanks to the influx of tech like zoom and discord. 

I am rebuilding myself, very slowly.

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. A crisis provides an opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.

Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way

There is a chance that all of us put ourselves in danger of developing it– it’s nearly unavoidable. 
You could be walking around with it and not even know it.
The best chance you have against it are good choices and a strong immune system.
If you have it, you may not survive. And if you do survive, you will never be the same.

I am talking, of course, about cancer.

Cancer has given me a new chance. COVID is giving all of us a new chance. What will I do with my chance? What will we all do with this chance to do something?

2 thoughts on “Life Post Cancer Treatment and Life During COVID”

  1. Glad you placed an entry… always such an interesting perspective…. and I can know you’re alright. Praying for you daily. Madeline

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Hi John, Your final comment about COVID-19 giving us a chance to do new things, start a new beginning, etc. reminded me of our mid-week, drive up communion service tonight (we stay in our cars in the parking lot at church, pastor has handed out individually packaged wafer and wine) and we have a mini-sermon to keep us going. Tonight he was talking about the fact that God has given man many opportunities to start fresh — kind of like our old Etch-A-Sketch. God can just turn it upside down and shake it a bit and give us an entire new beginning. Let us hope that folks are smart enough to recognize this and make the best of it for our future! Aunt Nancy

    On Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 2:22 PM Enlightenment at Gunpoint wrote:

    > johncatoe posted: ” I remember the first moment we decided that we were > going to shutter-in because of COVID. It was March 13th and I ran some > errands. I was at Publix and I felt like I knew a secret no one else did– > I loaded up on food and milk to get us through what I ho” >

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