I have not written on this blog for almost four months because I was preparing for, underwent, and have been recovering from reconstructive surgery. I was waiting for a moment to be inspired to write again, but maybe inspiration is too strong of a word.
When you are working to fulfill your basic needs, engaging in an activity that you normally love is not always the best thing. Sometimes when you try to do something and encounter restrictions or discomfort, reconnecting with the activity becomes more work than leisure.
Actually, if you are like many people in my social circles who have been heavily engaged in the active work of racial justice, the last few decades have felt extremely long.
I both am encouraged to see more people fighting for racial justice—especially Black lives—in ways I have not seen in my lifetime, and I also am frustrated that this journey to progress is both so long and mentally and emotionally taxing for those involved. This is why when I saw the NPR Code Switch piece titled A Decade of Watching Black People Die, I thought to myself, “A decade? JUST a decade?” I decided not to listen to it.
The other day, I tried to find an old post of mine on Facebook in which I mentioned MLK. I didn’t find what I was seeking, but I found another instead. Strangely enough, this post does not mention Martin Luther King, Jr., MLK, or any variation of his name, but the powers of Facebook pulled it up for me anyway. This is a post from November 10, 2016.
In my recent posts, I have covered a variety of pandemic experiences. It all started when my friend in California posted about his ER visit on Facebook. With his permission, I shared his story in The Stories That Don’t Make Headlines.
His story inspired me to start the Tell Me About Yourself series by asking my other friends about their experiences in the time of Coronavirus. I learned things about them that I would not have known otherwise—or at least known as quickly and as deeply.
In the Tell Me About Yourself series, we last heard from my de facto cousin in Manila. Now we will return to the US and learn about the COVID-19 pandemic experience of my cousin in the Chicago area.
This cousin is making the most out of her time while social distancing and living in quarantine. She is proudly independent and enjoying solitary time, but she still finds herself missing people. (Who knew that could happen?)
There is an innate need for human connection even when you are independent.
What are you feeling a strong need to have during this pandemic?
The past few weeks, we have followed the pandemic stories of my friends on the West Coast, East Coast, and Midwest. Now we will travel around the globe to the Philippines—virtually of course—and hear from one of my relatives in Manila.
Since COVID-19 has grown across the world, there has been much discussion on defining who and what is essential: essential workers, essential businesses, and essential services.
Many of you know that I’m a cancer patient. I felt a lump in my breast December 10th and was diagnosed on December 19th. My life hasn’t been the same since.
I had my mastectomy on February 24th, which was the same week that the Biogen meeting screwed over Boston with COVID-19 infections. That news didn’t become public until later—after I already had been to follow-up appointments at five medical institutions with no extra precaution against the virus.
From March 11th onward, I saw different medical institutions change their protocol with intake for patients and visitors. The procedures change daily as new information arises.
I had my egg retrieval on March 19th. I was ordered to be monitored by someone for 24 hours after the procedure. I was told this took priority over any call for social distancing. Two friends took shifts in caring for me in their homes. Each had a spare room where I stayed and had next to no contact with them.
Below is a picture of my breakfast in my spare room at one friend’s house on March 20th, the day after my egg retrieval. A few hours after I ate this breakfast, I got a call from one hospital stating that I had been briefly exposed to a healthcare worker, who later tested positive for COVID-19.
During my first few weeks of recovery from surgery, my family visited me. My sister flew in a couple days before my mastectomy and stayed for a week. She overlapped by a day with my parents, who stayed in a hotel near my home for almost a week and a half.
By the end of my parents’ last visit with me, my mom raised the topic of how people didn’t know how to talk to me. That is why some of them hadn’t said anything to me about my breast cancer diagnosis.
For context, this is an issue that came up quite a bit after I was initially diagnosed. My sister asked what she could share. A few cousins asked what they could share. Somehow other members of my extended family aren’t sure what they can or cannot say about my diagnosis to others.
Some relatives wanted to share my story with others, and other relatives were saying that they shouldn’t. I heard this from a few different sources in my family.
My mom said that some relatives told others to “just pray” for me—or at least that’s the story in this never-ending game of telephone.
When I look at my life, I think it aesthetically looks pleasing. I’ve grown a robust network of kind and amazing friends and other loved ones. I have a job I like. My basic needs like food, shelter, and water are fulfilled. That is more than what I’ve had in the past. That is more than what others have. Like the picture of the sunrise and trees below, life has been a blur, but I’ve been doing my best to still appreciate what’s beautiful.
Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve had all types of flashbacks of my life, including challenges, accomplishments, goals, milestones, and a wide range of experiences from the beautiful to the ugly. If I was able to tackle all of those things, why should breast cancer be any different?
In conversations with different people, I have received advice to distract myself. I feel ambivalent about that tip.