I started the 30 Day Challenge of writing a blog each day with every intention of following through. And then life, as it does, got in the way. The whole premise of any 30 Day Challenge is to make that ‘thing’ you’re honoring an absolute priority, no excuses. That said, this particular blog isn’t a reason or a justification for my not writing, it’s just an… explanation.
Do you remember when COVID began being reported on the news at the end of 2019? At first it was frightening, terrifying even. People were dying and so little was actually known about the virus. I remember feeling terribly sad for those who had been impacted, but it was with a feeling of detachment- like hearing about wars in other countries; it’s devastating, and your heart aches for fellow humans, but the implications have so little personal impact on your own day-to-day routine. For those of us who were far away from any chance of contracting corona, nothing much changed. But as the virus began to spread, and more and more people became sick, the pandemic was suddenly very real and very threatening.
I remember at the beginning of 2020 thinking I should write about my own personal experience with what was happening in the world, but as COVID swept America so did divisive opinions. The virus, and all its treatments, were fodder for all kinds of political discourse. Tolerance on either side was at an all-time low. No one wanted to hear anyone else’s narrative unless it agreed with their own. I’m not an overly political person, and keep which way I vote under wraps for the most part, so I had no desire to cast my own two cents into the fractious waters and possibly alienate half of my friends or family.
And then, in the middle of it all, Mark was diagnosed with cancer for the second time.
For me, the pandemic ceased to be the most horrific thing in life. And writing was a fleeting thought, an unimportant waste of time in the face of what we were up against. I became consumed with Mark obtaining the best medical care possible. In a strange twist of fate, we were able to secure an appointment with Dr Wang (who is considered the best head and neck cancer surgeon in the state of Arizona) because of COVID. People at that time were not going to doctors because they were afraid to leave their houses. Dr Wang, normally booked at full capacity, was not only able to see us right away but was able to schedule Mark’s life saving surgery within a week.
It was after that that we moved to Tucson for two months while Mark underwent daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy treatments. We were isolated in so many ways… away from our home and unable to be out in public for fear Mark would contract a cold or flu. His white blood cell count was so low that his body wouldn’t have been able to fight off the simplest of infections. The rest of the world was isolated too, trying to “flatten the curve”. We were all kind of living in our own bubbles, so many of us alone and lonely, the days dragging out monotonously, uneventful and dull. Except for those hours of torment when a loved one got COVID and life seemed to stand still.
I sort of wonder if things ever fully returned to pre-pandemic conviviality for us as a society? I feel like people don’t go out to eat as much, travel as often or even leave the house to browse stores for fun. Parties, big group adventures and business trips don’t induce the same kind of FOMO as they used to. Binge-watching shows, scrolling Amazon and wearing pajamas three days in a row became the new normal during COVID and that cozy way of spending our days seems to have carried over into 2022 despite lockdowns being a semi-distant memory.
I wanted to sort of briefly relive the pandemic in this blog because I’m trying to relate to you, my dear reader. When I tell you that my days are long and boring, that I have brief flashes of terror, that I feel isolated and alone and that a lot of the time I am simply existing, just waiting for the next event to happen, I am hoping you will understand. Cancer, much like COVID, leaves families depressed and anxious, trapped like flightless birds in a roofless cage.
Yes, Mark and I can still go out to eat, but he is limited to what he can order and then is only able to consume a very small portion. Chewing and swallowing take so much effort that it’s hard for him to talk. And even when he does talk it’s hard to hear his strained voice above the chatter of other diners. Traveling is out of the question as he is still too weak from his last surgery. All of our conversations from morning to night revolve around his shoulder pain, his cough, his fibrosis being uncomfortable, his tongue hurting, upcoming doctor appointments, or scans, or medications, is he eating/drinking enough, sleeping well, having any new symptoms… there is very little joy in the day to day. Similar to the pandemic, hours and months of sameness just bleed into each other.
Mark was off work last week so we were together more than normal. Because he doesn’t have the energy (or desire) to do very much, I didn’t want to tell him to give me time to write- I felt that would have been selfish of me. On top of which, even if I had asked him for alone time, there wasn’t a whole lot for me to blog about. I even hesitate to type all of this because I worry so much about bringing you down. I’d much rather publish a funny, happy, silly story. I’m so burnt out and depleted from worrying about Mark and feeling sorry for Mark that imaginative creativity seems like a long lost friend. Each day is a struggle for me to keep positive, to keep The Bear at bay and to hang on to some semblance of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal situation.
So my 30 Day Challenge… it has not turned out to be consecutive days. And, honestly, that does make me disappointed in myself. On the other hand, while I really am trying to make writing a priority in my life, it can never, and should never, be a priority over Mark.
I’m sending lots of love to each of you and I also wanted to say thank you for all of the messages- I’ve received so many beautiful notes via the blog and social media. You guys bring warmth to my soul and make me feel a part of something special. Please don’t ever stop reaching out with your own stories; your struggles, your victories, your happy moments and your sad moments. Your words bring comfort and light… and connection. xoxoxo