Cancer coping … COVID-19 coping

To the editor;

I have been counting down. On May 5, 2020, I will swallow my last breast cancer chemotherapy pill! Five years. 60 months. 1825 days. 1825 pills! Celebration!

Layered between waves of celebration, there are also waves of memories: fear, confusion, alarm. I also recall coping strategies I developed.

My personal celebration comes at a time when there is global danger. Overpowering my individual glad voice, are the international anxious voices.

The word “Cancer” is loaded with stress, unanswered questions and grim statistics.

Now we have a new word: “Covid-19” and it is loaded with stress, unanswered questions and grim statistics announced daily.

Could similar coping strategies I developed then be beneficial now?

Fear vs Facts: Although many questions are not yet answered, still, there are facts. Collect them. Hold tightly. Rehearse them in your mind. Put out the hot swirling flares of anxiety with calming cold hard facts.

Doubt vs Trust: Find a reliable source. Stick with it. No use muddying the waters with conspiracy theories and rumours. If it feels foggy, walk towards the light.

Gratitude: I like to start large and go small. Or start small and go large. Example: This tiny opening bud. My garden. The Earth. The weather. The phase of the moon. Example: The sunshine. The planet. The farmers. This potato. My meal.

Visualization: During every radiation treatment (which terrified me) I imagined I was a mighty hunter, sending my beautiful falcon to snatch and destroy any remaining cancer cells. I drew pictures. I told my support people. I wore an eagle necklace. I went to my “happy place” to re-experience the thrilling and victorious battle.

What can I imagine now that can conquer this microscopically small Covid-19 virus?

Faith Tradition: It was very hard for me to reconcile my beliefs with this monster called “cancer.” I knew I needed help to see the pathway ahead. It was worth the struggle to find comfort and nourishment where others before me have gained strength to persevere through emergencies and overcome difficulties and to face the unknown.

Words of Wisdom: I collect quotations, songs, poems, sacred texts. These are like vitamins to both strengthen me and chase away the threat. “I am only one. And yet, I am one. I cannot do everything. And yet, I can do something.” and “Turn your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.” Helen Keller.

Name it: When I come face-to-face with danger, I name it. If there is a word for this, then other people have experienced it. I do not battle alone.

Beside my bed: Paper and pen. Quiet music. Telephone numbers. Picture book. Crossword puzzle. Sacred text. Family photos. Mementos and souvenirs. Figurine. Night light. Yes, there are sleepless hours. I don’t want to get lost in the swirling fears. I am ready to calm my mind.

Support: Ask for it! Spouse. Parent. Cousins. Wise women. High-school friends. Someone who as already endured. The night nurse. Pastoral care. Counselor. Find them. They love you. They will listen.

Ritual: Might be your morning coffee, walk, reading, journal. Might be a candle and quiet posture. Might be reciting a prayer. Might be a stretching routine. This is your anchor. Through familiar repetition, you signal to your body and your mind that “all is well.”

Fresh air and sunshine: Didn’t your Mom tell you, “Go outside and play!” Yes! It is so simple, it is so easy to disregard. How could something universally available also be a universal antidote for these complexities? I don’t know why. But, I know that it is!

I am so small: When I stand on top of a mountain. I realize “I am so small,” and I love this sensation. When I stand on the 20th floor of an apartment building and watch 11 lanes of traffic, I realize “I am so small,” and I dread this feeling. Find your safe, pleasant, relaxing “I am so small” feeling. Go there. Relax. Trust. Rest. Breathe deep.

I am so small. But, I am ME! Celebrate!

Eleanor Deckert

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