Sunday 5 April 2020

Another new normal

(proceeds from this project to a Healthcare Hero Fund through Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation)

You know how people say "I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy?"

Well, in a way, we're all living that nightmare now. It's both worse and not as bad as it sounds.

I chuckle in a perverse sort of way whenever I see someone talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them into finding a new normal. It's the saying medical families the world over have used - us included - and it's nothing to be scared of.

Accepting and eventually embracing your new circumstances is an important part of surviving something like cancer, a job loss, a death, or being stuck in your house for weeks on end.

Dominic showed us how it's done. After the chemotherapy destroyed his immune system (and, we had hoped, all the cancer cells with it), he could've died from the common cold. So every time nurses came in or out of his room, they had to wear special masks and gloves. The room was constantly being wiped down with medical-grade wipes, which we were warned could actually cause cancer themselves until the cleaning agent in them dried. So you had to wear gloves just to use the wipes.

As a cancer patient, you get used to sanitizing your hands every time you walk down the hallway to the oncology clinic. You know how to take off a pair of plastic gloves so that you don't touch the outside of the gloves. You're scared of door handles, cringe at the thought of handling money and have no problem telling people with any sign of illness to stay the heck away from you.

Seeing everyone else forced to learn these habits is of course sad, but now everybody knows what being immune-suppressed is like. We're all compromised against this new disease. We all have to act like it could kill us, because you don't really know how you'll fare until you've got it. Even if the mortality rate is three per cent, would you seriously play Russian roulette with a 33-chamber gun knowing one of those chambers has a bullet in it?

There are positives to being stuck in isolation. You get creative. I'll never forget seeing Dom sitting in his hospital crib with an entire bag of cheezies strewn around him. You find different ways of keeping in touch: the iPad Dominic was given by the hospital allowed easy FaceTime calls with family, and now our daughter uses it.

We think often about how this situation must be for those in the actual oncology department. Resources are being diverted in our health care system to fight the pandemic, and cancer patients are among those who could be sacrificed as a result. If there's a shortage of masks or gloves, will the cancer units of the world have to do without for a while? How many people will die because their surgeries, or their safety were compromised because a handful of people couldn't be bothered to self-isolate and spread this new disease?

We've been doing our part, staying at home, telling our 3-year-old the #Dominicstrong park has been closed for the past month. We've been lucky because both Trish and I have been able to work from home.

We haven't done any fundraising yet this year. Especially now, with so many people out of work, it doesn't feel right asking for money for a charity. But given all the help the health care system needs, I'd be remiss not to mention what's going on this week online.

We weren't going to Extra Life United in Florida this year. Then the pandemic happened, and it's... NOT CANCELLED. In fact, it's morphed into an online-only experience, free to sign up, with the original US$150,000 still able to be won for hospitals across North America. So even though I'll have to do it around my work schedule, I've signed up to play.

If you want or have the means, you can sponsor me in my efforts to win a few bucks for the Alberta Children's Hospital. This is separate from the link I give the rest of the year for my main Extra Life page: it's a special Extra Life United page.

Now, more than ever, we need the have's of the world to support the have-not's. Let's become a better community.

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