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Breast Cancer, Chemo, and COVID-19, Oh My!

If there is something positive that comes out of going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, it was that I had so many thoughtful friends reach out and say they would love to be my chemo buddy. I was looking forward to catching up with some special people during those 16 planned treatments from February through May.

And then COVID-19 changed everything. We can no longer have guests join us during chemo, so I have completed the last 3 alone.

I am completely paranoid of the oncology nurses, since asymptomatic people can carry this virus, but not enough to stop me from receiving the treatments helping to shrink my tumor. My friends who were constantly checking in on me, dropping off gifts and sending cards, are now rightfully dealing with their own worries about their jobs and loved ones during this crisis.

Life for everyone, breast cancer patients included, no longer looks or feels “normal.”

I officially became a Pink Sister on December 16, 2019, when I got the call with the results of my biopsy. I was told I have Triple Negative Breast Cancer Stage 2B. Hearing the news was very emotional, but not entirely shocking. I have participated in the Susan G. Komen Dallas Race for the Cure and volunteered for several events with my National Charity League. I knew the statistics, and thought I knew a lot about breast cancer, but boy was I wrong. I had no idea there were so many different kinds, each with its own set of treatment plans. It was overwhelming. So, as millions of Pink Sisters have done before me, I began my own journey of researching the disease, joining Facebook support groups, scheduling doctor and imaging appointments, and reaching out to friends who had been through this for personal support and advice.

My significant other and my two daughters have been amazing, and we felt good about the treatment plan that my surgeon and oncologist recommended. I stayed positive and was ready to embrace my personal breast cancer journey. I even bought 2 wigs to wear for date nights and social events so I would feel a little more like myself! With all this support I was adjusting to my new “normal!” Feeling like a warrior, I completed my 4th infusion of AC on March 6 and was looking forward to spending time with my daughters the following week—their Spring Break!

Little did I know, within the next few days everything would begin shutting down. Universities and schools started closing and moving to online learning and the rest of the U.S. tried to frantically prepare for this pandemic and mitigate the spread. The scariest part was hearing over and over on the news how vulnerable those with compromised immune systems are to COVID-19, and knowing I currently fall into THAT category because of the effects of chemotherapy. Those of us battling breast cancer, or any cancer, know from our weekly labs how weak our immune system is! Shelter in place rules were initiated, and my family realized we would have to take extra precautions to prevent my exposure, which makes me feel like an extra burden. It is almost unfathomable to think that the world is basically staying at home for people like me, but also very humbling and much appreciated.

This has definitely made the cancer journey a little harder. I think I am one of the few people who loves grocery shopping, and this has been one of the hardest things to give up! It was another activity that made me feel productive and normal during cancer treatment.

My family and I are trying to adjust to working and schooling from home, and we all get a little testy at times. The steroids that I get with chemo have been causing sleeplessness and moodiness, and I am grateful for the patience of those I am in isolation with. However, over the last few days I realized EVERYONE is experiencing similar emotions and lifestyle changes that cancer patients deal with every day. I chuckle at the Facebook posts from friends who are upset that they can’t get their hair and nails done as I sit here bald and worried about losing my nails on Taxol. I have read that it is sometimes hard for cancer patients to return to “normal” after treatment, and now I think we will all have to adjust to a “new normal.” In the meantime, all anyone can do, is what us warriors do every day – stay positive, take it one day at a time, and fight like a girl!