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Cancer During Coronavirus

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

For the long-term cancer survivor, or newly diagnosed, cancer during Coronavirus has kicked up quite a bit of dust. By dust, I mean vulnerability. We feel hyper-vulnerable. We worry about the virus and underlying conditions, co-morbidities, chances and odds, and risks of infection. We are exposed to an endless 24-hour news cycle full of grief and loss and financial hardship. For cancer patients, the Coronavirus is the icing on the cake of stress.

Pre-Pandemic, we were encouraged to bring a relative or a friend to our appointments for support, but during Coronavirus, the opposite is true. And it is a good thing.

City of Hope, where I am treated, is doing it right regarding patient screening, social distancing, and safety and wellness practices. I feel safe on campus, relaxed and welcomed. The staff is always polite and encouraging.

This spring I was able to spend quite a bit of time in my favorite spot at City of Hope: "The Circle of Roses" rose garden. It’s unusual to have a small nature park within a cancer center, and even more unusual to feel such a profound sense of peace and quiet along its pathways. Usually, there are loads of people milling about but, on two recent trips, I was by myself, and could hear the birds singing with perfect clarity. The only outside noise was the soft sound of a passing train. It was surreal. I’ve spent 10 years visiting this garden with gratitude, but this time it was mystical. I had time to read the names of all the roses and the people who made the garden a reality.

Walking and meditation help our hearts and souls to settle down. It is a particularly good practice for the cancer patient or anyone with a chronic condition. A fan of yoga, I studied yogic breathing as a method of calming myself down after diagnosis or before treatment. I remember how scared I felt the first time I had a butterfly needle inserted into my port during my first chemotherapy infusion. It’s a needle so fine, you can barely feel it going in, but as a chemo newbie, I was beside myself! Now when I have my port cleaned there’s nothing to it. I don’t have an ounce of anxiety anymore when the needle goes into the port. I share this because someone who is new to cancer may be reading this, I want you to know, it gets easier. You may feel overwhelmed now, but you will eventually get the hang of it.

Cancer is so much about monkey mind and “living inside one’s head,” and trying to get out of one’s head to a better, calmer place. It is important for us to learn the techniques necessary to redirect that anxiety and instill a sense of optimism and calm. Now we have smartphone apps that can help us, but nothing beats daily practice.

The Circle of Roses rose garden is where I go when I need to practice and be still. I make a bee-line to its gate before “check-in”, find a bench and take a few very deep breaths. I put my hand on my heart. I thank God for the chance to wake up, to be alive, to be able to walk and live another day. I thank God for the ones who actively help me and who have supported me all along, my dearest family and friends. I slow myself down. I look around at the beauty in the garden and I think of all the brave people who came before me at City of Hope. I think of the researchers and scientists who have made such strides, who are on their way to finding cures. I thank God for all the advances in medicine - even in my time at City of Hope the treatments are less invasive and debilitating. I thank God for the blood and bone marrow donors who give life to perfect strangers. I thank God for the financial donors who give a little and give a lot. So many hands built City of Hope. So many hearts keep it beating.


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