Fear in the Time of Corona
by Barbara and Tim Bigelow
Most of you know that I am a blogger in addition to being the Editor. What you may not know is that my husband, Tim, also blogs. Recently he wrote a blog that seemed to resonate within my own metastatic community so I thought I would share it with you all here. It touches on many of our concerns right now.
April 15, 2020, Day 37 in quarantine
Fear: He woke up to a dry cough. Not his. Hers. Was she okay? The coughing woke her as well. When she sat up, she said she was exhausted. He was immediately concerned. He was out shopping a few days before. Wore a mask, gloves. Thought he wiped down everything he brought in. Did he miss something? She hadn’t gone anywhere herself. She knew she couldn’t. Her immune system was too compromised from her stage four cancer. Now she was showing symptoms. She had a fever. What should they do? No way were they going to an ER. So, they waited a bit. The next day she was worse. She called her oncologist, who told her to come to the hospital downtown. The oncologist would alert the ER so they would be prepared. When they got there, they were directed to a tent, where she was taken and tested. She had the signs. They admitted her, but he wasn’t allowed to go with her. She texted that she was scared. They had to take her phone. A contamination issue. No more contact. A doctor called. She was getting worse. Could a ventilator help? Maybe, but we don’t have enough. What? They are all in use. I didn’t believe him. Was it a stage four cancer protocol? He was vague, was sorry. Would see what he could do. That evening he called. His voice was soft, low. She didn’t make it. She passed. Alone. Without her husband. Without her children. With only strangers. Who probably tried to console her, but had to do so behind masks and gowns? My last vision of her walking toward a hospital door, looking over her shoulder at me, terrified, mouthing my name. Eyes wet with tears.
That is my fear. That is what sits deep inside every time I think about going outside, seeing other people. It is both irrational and real. That something so horrible could be so close.
Sorry: So usually I try to bring levity to this blog, but I felt compelled to go a different direction today. No, this didn’t actually happen. At least to us. But it has happened to so many others and I simply can’t imagine what that must be like. My heart goes out to every family who is struggling with this. (Tim Bigelow)
For those of us with Stage IV cancer, the reality Tim talks about is nothing new to us. We have learned to live with near constant anxiety and fear. Our lives are filled with unknowns— will this treatment work? is there progression? How many more lines do I have left? What do I tell my kids?
We have learned to adapt and live with the unacceptable. We know the medical people don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the answer lives within us as we subject ourselves to experimental, untried protocols in a desperate hope for a reprieve. We also know, from years of practice, to live in the present, one day at a time, and that nothing is promised.
In the time of covid-19, now everyone else is catching up and learning how to live like this— is it safe to go out? Will I catch it? Was I careful enough? Will there be a respirator for me? A vaccine?
Maybe this pandemic makes us more relatable. Our fears are shared, and we are in this together. When all is said and done, perhaps we need to be the ones to step up. “People with cancer have flourished through living in the unknown for years. The present is what they thrive on. They are our leaders, our teachers and our guides. They are the leading light in the storm, the Masters of the unknown, people who know what it’s like to look life in the eyes and say, Let’s do this. (BETHANY DAVIS in Curetoday.com)
Barbara Bigelow, Editor