Next week is my "cancerversary". As this anniversary approaches I am reminded of what medical isolation feels like and I hope I can help others understand just how lucky they are to be home with family.
Having my neck operated on was terrifying. I remember the doctor saying, "We will be cutting very close to your vocal cords and there’s no guarantee we can protect them". But, what scared me the most were the treatments. Unlike typical radiation, my radiation treatment had to be ingested.
A nurse wearing protective gear opened up a large capsule that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. It had radioactive stickers on it and had been shipped in just for me.
I had to wear gloves in order to touch the pill I was about to EAT. I couldn't wrap my brain around that one. I was prepped in advance to know that I would take the treatment and remain in isolation for seven days at a time after each treatment. The radiation coming off of my body would be so strong that I was not allowed to be around anything LIVING for at least seven days, including my dog.
I had a six-month-old baby at the time of my first treatment and it just happened to fall on the week of my birthday. My husband brought my little girl to see me with flowers and we kissed through a piece of glass. At the time, it felt like the end of the world. In hindsight I know my cancer battle was a walk in the park compared to so many others. But the isolation was unbearable.
I have since had the honor of meeting and falling in love with so many others who’ve gone through the same process. Olivia, a teenager I met through the Amanda Riley Foundation, faced a cancer diagnosis that was much more difficult than my own. She reached a point where only a bone marrow transplant would save her life. I watched as she endured countless chemo treatments in order to kill off her own bone marrow. Thankfully, it was later replaced with the healthy bone marrow of a generous donor from the other side of the world. She had to be isolated for months and only saw one or two of her immediate family members during that time. Unlike me being isolated to protect others, she was isolated to protect her immune system, or lack of one.
Olivia spending time with a therapy dog at CHOA.
And, by far, the worst of all situations is when medical isolation is your final place here on earth. A family I love dearly had to endure this with their son Grant. Texting with her this morning, Grants mom recounts how they faced many different levels of isolation. From a complete lockdown while receiving a stem cell transplant, where food had to be passed through a cabinet and the room had negative pressure airflow, to the times at home where Grant wanted so badly to play with his siblings but couldn't, because he either felt to bad or was too high risk for infection.
At one point he could only eat processed or cooked foods because fresh fruit and veggies could carry something life-threatening.
This is a photo his Dad took of him looking out at the snow (which we rarely get in Georgia and is always a treat for kids) but not feeling well enough to play in it.
Grant Gossling at home.
As he neared the end of his life they had to fight to gain permission for his siblings to visit the ICU due to it being flu season. That time they faced isolation knowing the outcome would likely not be positive, I can’t imagine anything worse. My heart feels like it’s being crushed just typing those words.
This is my reminder to you that there are people all over the world who are fighting these same exact situations still today and who have been long before Covid-19 came along. They would do ANYTHING to be at home working on renovation projects or schoolwork. And then there are those who have been forced into medical isolation while fighting COVID-19. NOTE: I am in no way comparing the devastation levels of these types of isolations, they are all terrible.
For all of these people, please do your best to STAY positive, stay SAFE and SHARE positive uplifting stories during this time. If you are at home with your family, count your blessings. Because unless you are in one of these situations, or your health or safety is compromised, life is so good.
All my best,