COVID + Cancer

COVID + Cancer

Cancer during a pandemic is tricky business.

If you remember, I last left our lovable patient freshly out of the ER and heading to ICU. He was wheeled out of there within 20 minutes of verifying he did not have COVID. Brian was in the hospital 48 hours more with an infection.

Visiting Brian at the hospital the following day had been surreal. I saw no people milling around, only employees. The day after they forced us both to quarantine in Brian’s ER room, there was still curbside valet. Twenty-four hours later it was gone. The whole episode rattled me; enmeshing the two circumstances compounded my angst.

In the days following Brian’s hospitalization we played it very conservative. Brian was weak and tired with a highly compromised immune system so all of our shopping quickly became online or curbside. The few times I went into a store, I returned home and showered immediately, making sure to touch no common surfaces with unsanitized hands. We shut ourselves off from the outside world.

During his chemoradiation treatment, pre-pandemic, Ella and I knew we needed to stay healthy, but it wasn’t the same. There was work, school. I was still shopping and going to appointments, but always alert to a cough or sneeze which would lead me to move on or ask a cashier to sanitize their hands. Ella was at band practice daily after school and had weekend competitions.

Now that the smoke has cleared and we better understand how to avoid COVID infection, I see my nonexistent social calendar, my mask and my diligent social distancing as an obligation to our marriage. An obligation I’m happy to undertake to keep him well(ish).

It took four weeks for Brian to get back to where he was pre-infection. At that point he restarted immunotherapy and healing commenced once again. In the last month or so, my man began puttering around the house and organizing his music collection, his go-to activities pre-cancer.

To me, this was a huge milestone. During chemoradiation, all I wanted was to see him out of bed, doing the usual, mundane tasks. I wanted to see him strong enough to get out of bed for a stretch of time and not need to recuperate. I’ve never been so happy to watch him strategically move and anally arrange a few hundred albums and CDs, until they were just right.

The opening of businesses in June paralleled with Brian’s uptick and led us to again rethink how we were going to move forward pandemic wise. Brian is now going to the grocery store and work, the latter of which opened a few weeks ago. He doesn’t go to the store regularly, but it’s a choice he’s making and I understand.

I’m comfortable with him going back to work. At The Kimbell, masks are required. And it’s not necessary he go upstairs into the actual museum. Additionally, his office is inside an office which makes me feel better. The other truth is no one (wants to) enter the IT offices.

I’m going to my office on Mondays. I don’t have to be there, but we decided it is good for me and poses minimal risk.

I’m a gregarious person. Being holed up with two introverts can be tough. As time would leisurely wane and my workday in my home office came to an end, I’d tell my husband that I hadn’t reached my word count for the day. It had never happened before the pandemic. I really felt like I would internally combust. So there I was, eagerly anticipating the moment Brian would be ready for the word volcano that was ready to erupt.

During my one day at work, the CFO is only other person on site. That is the extent of my social life (luckily he likes to talk). It’s just nice to have a destination and to see someone who doesn’t live with me. Another plus, my office is in the heart of downtown Fort Worth on floor 28, with floor to ceiling windows, fulfilling my cosmopolitan needs. It is doubtful our office will fully open in 2020.

A new, irritating side effect for Brian is a very dry mouth that keeps him on a soup-heavy diet. Also, his lung did tighten slightly, so he has a lung exercise he does with a handheld plastic thingy he blows into, expanding the lung. I thought it was fun to watch him blow the little ball up the cylinder of the doodad (this is what happens during a pandemic), which is exactly why I got the opportunity to watch revoked.

While we (more me) would love to start seeing people again, COVID numbers are climbing. The Whaley’s will be parked inside for the foreseeable future.

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