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?
If you’ve kept up with my blog in the past few months, you know I’ve been juggling many thoughts, emotions, and decisions related to these events:
Being diagnosed with breast cancer as a young adult
Going through breast cancer treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic
Mainly, I’ve been sharing what my diagnosis and what this pandemic mean for my current life. The truth is I don’t have complete clarity at this moment, but I can tell you what I am learning from this process of discernment.
When I was a kid, I grew up being pro-life. It’s not a shocker for someone who grew up in a conservative Christian family and attended Christian schools from Pre-K to 8th grade.
Although I later changed my label to pro-choice (I don’t quite remember if it happened in high school or college), my actual attitudes and beliefs toward family planning didn’t change. I had lots of compassion for women who had to figure out if they should raise their child, put their child up for adoption, or abort the child. As both a pro-life and pro-choice advocate at different times in my life, I wanted to focus on improving systems to support mothers and children. When I was a pro-lifer, I didn’t get why some pro-lifers shamed mothers in these situations without holding the fathers accountable. (I now know that the reasons are patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny.)
In retrospect, I realize that being a pro-lifer during my childhood and early teen years caused me to research adoption more. By the time I was in high school, I was determined to adopt a kid with or without a spouse when I was older.
As an adult, I had a few partners where the conversations of family planning came up. Although I was interested in having biological children, I posed the idea of adoption to my partners. Some were more receptive than others.
During my twenties, I took great offense when one of my exes said we could adopt as long as we had our “own children.” I strongly expressed to him that any child of ours—adopted or not—would be our “own children.” He was a sweet guy, but eventually I broke up with him for other important reasons not related to family planning.
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.
More than a month and a half after I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I attended a support group for women who had all types of cancer. During the latter part of the session, a breast cancer survivor introduced herself and wanted to find out what brought me to the group. After learning that I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer, she gave me her contact information and offered to talk to me further about resources.
Within a few days, I emailed her, and we were able to talk on the phone a day later. She shared her story with me, outlined the challenges she faced, and provided advice for my next steps.
“Get a Keurig, ” she told me. I almost told her that I was a tea drinker, but I was intrigued by her specific recommendation. I asked her why she suggested a Keurig. Then she explained that people could serve themselves when they visited me. I wouldn’t have to worry about serving them.
Something about her recommendation sat with me in a funny way. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then it occurred to me how much she had thought about serving other people when she had been the one in dire need during her recovery.
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.
I’ve been giving friends life advice since junior high. In eighth grade, one even told me that I was like her therapist.
“Her therapist?!” my sister exclaimed she found out what my friend had said. Yup, her therapist. While it was kind of a weird compliment, I was flattered to know she trusted me with her family problems.