SLOWLY–Returning to Pre-Quarantine Life

Cancer

Last week, I needed to get some labs drawn. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified and anxious about going back to the hospital. Was I risking exposure to COVID by going in? How could I keep myself safe?

I kept myself up much of the night before. Tossing, turning, playing out every possible scenario in my mind. I packed my “go bag” containing 2 masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes. I checked it over…13 times. I wondered about getting in an elevator. I thought about riding the escalator. I thought about being near other people. I didn’t know where they had been. Whom they had been with. Was this going to be ok?

I want to tell you…IT WAS MORE THAN FINE.

First, I was greeted with a sign that said, “face coverings required beyond this point.” Folks, this is something we need to get used to. I know they are uncomfortable. I sweat like a fiend underneath mine. I’ve instituted an entirely new face cleaning regimen because of my “mask-ne.” Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe and I want to rip the thing off. And then I remember, it’s NOT FOR ME. Mask wearing is altruistic: it symbolizes that we care about others we have to share space with and will do our best to protect them while we share that space. It doesn’t mean we are weak or letting go of our personal liberties. It is part of our duty to humankind.

There was one other person waiting for the elevator with me. We respected each other’s space. When the elevator came, I asked, “are you ok if we ride together?” She responded “yes.” She then proceeded to press the buttons for us so I didn’t have to. As soon as I got off the elevator, they took my temperature with a thermal scan. Deemed “ok,” I was asked if I knew where I was going and how to get there. I then headed to the escalator.

Look ma! No hands! I took the escalator to my next elevator bank to the fourth floor. Again, there was one other person. He was also ok with being in the elevator together. We talked about how the masks made communication challenging, and that we were going to need to learn to actually TALK TO EACH OTHER again because we couldn’t rely on a smile or frown to communicate our comfort levels with others.

Then came time for the lab. As with the grocery store, six foot distances are taped off on the floor. I checked in and waited in line. When it was my turn, the nurse and I chatted and I can’t tell you how nice it was to have someone touch my hand. Sure, she was putting a needle in it, but I didn’t care. The physical contact we used to be so accustomed to—that we took for granted before quarantine—was so welcome. I actually didn’t mind when she had to stick me again. It was just nice to have her in my presence.

When I was done, I repeated my steps. Warning: getting on an escalator no hands going down is much harder. I returned to the safety of my car. I was proud of myself for going in and getting this done.

As we begin to re-enter society, we will need to be more thoughtful, mindful of others, deliberate and we may need to plan more carefully. We will go back. We will do things again that we did before Corona. But, they will look different and we will also need to be different.

The risk of exposure is going to be there. We cannot control this. But we can control ourselves, what situations we put ourselves in, how we limit our potential risk, how we teach this to others, and how we begin to live again WITH COVID-19. 


Christina is a clinical oncology social worker and psychosocial content editor at OncoLink. Christina blogs about resources available to the cancer community, as well as general information about coping with cancer practically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christina is also an instructor at the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice. In her spare time, she loves to knit and volunteer with her therapy dogs, Linus and Huckleberry. She also loves to travel, cook and is an avid Philly sports fan.

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