Advice on Coping With Fears of the COVID-19 Omicron Variant from a Cancer Survivor

COVID-19 variants are the bane of our existence in the cancer community. And when I heard the omicron racing towards us, I panicked. My immediate thoughts were:

  • Will my vaccinations and booster vaccinations withstand this new onslaught?
  • Will my age (73) and my cancer status be good for me during this time?
  • Even if I survive, how will I emotionally deal with further prolonged isolation?

I was plagued by fear, couldn’t sleep, and felt very, very alone. Of course, it didn’t help that I’m a problem child and a news junkie – a bad combination in this scenario.

But another part of me, the part that gives others a helping hand, came out. I did not look for it, but a purpose had found me and changed my attitude.

In these small but significant actions, my attitude changed from “I” to “we”:

  • Pick up medication for a neighbor and call daily if he has a bad cold.
  • Sending text and breaking articles to a family member who has doubts that booster injections are safe and effective. (It is you, and she plans to get one).
  • Provide comforting words and offers to help the family of a good friend who is now in hospice care.
  • I’m sending a thank you card to an ambulance who discovered worrying edema in one of my feet and sent me to the emergency room. (I’m on medication and luckily I haven’t developed a clot).

I have learned many important lessons about how to take focus away from myself and put it on others in my orbit. I learned that I am not a hermit who has disconnected from the world, but is closely connected with friends, family and community. And I’ve learned that a small gesture or a kind word will help those who are cut off from social interaction. Humility is my guide.

I have also learned that the pandemic is showing few signs of slowing down but is certainly not going away entirely.

Last winter I wrote an article in which I said that Gilda’s Club is a mainstay in my social and emotional life and a buffer zone against the effects of COVID-19.

I am still in touch with my support groups at Gilda’s this winter and I am still a judge on essays written by youth in our local cancer community, an annual affair that sheds light on their journey and offers cash prizes for the winners. This assessment activity will take place during the dark and dreary winter months and will create a shield against loneliness and despair.

So the beat continues with COVID-19, but so does the beat of the human heart aiming to help each other through the crisis of our lives. I believe our cancer community will get through it with bruises, but not broken, fearful, but still hopeful and united than ever. Hold on, friends!

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