Woman holding her hands out nervously in a bubble with a lion, tiger, and bear surrounding

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Last updated: November 2022

I often remind my readers that I re-engaged in a chemo regime that will end at some unknown time. While the goal is 4-6 months of treatment, my organs seem to have another opinion with kidneys, mainly showing signs of failure.

At stage IIIC, my choice, for now, is to follow cancer reoccurrences with treatment. Again, I acknowledge there is no cure, but there is a chance to keep the "Lions and Tigers and Bears" at the door.

More significant concerns are looming

Well, dear hearts, I also remember more significant, bigger concerns are looming. We are hardly immune to other complex world health issues. For example, as I write this, Covid and Omicron variants are growing in all parts of our country, likely due to those still not believing their behavior influences the health of others.

Being fully vaccinated and boosted, I know chemo leaves me quite vulnerable, even here in my home. So, as a result, we stay at home except for necessary visits to the Cancer Center. My husband makes his "masked" visits to the grocery but remains secluded from the outside world.

Covid and chemo, oh my!

And lo and behold, symptoms from the "petri dish" outside our doors managed to escape and give him a whack of full symptoms of Covid. My husband was treated with Paxlovid, the latest antiviral approach, and responded well. We immediately secluded ourselves from each other and intensified measures to reduce the chance of spread.

Despite our best efforts, my symptoms were followed by intense lung involvement. My oncologist requested I "ride it out" without the Paxlovid, and I followed his wisdom. Chemo was out of the question and postponed. My energy dwindled even further, and breathing was difficult. However, I quickly ordered a pulse oximeter to ensure my oxygen rate (SPO2) remained above 90%. Daily phone contact with the treatment team made it bearable.

What did I learn from this experience?

  • Primarily, I learned I am not invincible. I wanted to believe that the measures we take at home protect us. However, no man is truly an island and is subject to the actions and inactions of others. As long as we have high numbers of unvaccinated individuals in our country, we are all subject to the possibility of Covid.
  • Sometimes I think I can conquer all. While I was willing to call the triage nurse to discuss symptoms and possible over-the-counter treatment, I needed to clarify that I was starting to lose the battle.
  • I became frustrated by the time it was taking to feel better. However, I am ever more aware that time is precious.
  • Some signs of Covid are somewhat similar to post-chemo symptoms but perhaps intensified. For example, I already had symptoms of pleural effusion from advances in ovarian cancer. Covid added to this by releasing constant clear sticky sputum, which often took my breath in trying to clear.
  • When all else failed, I remembered the teachings of my mother. As a child, we didn't have elaborate antibiotics or antiviral agents. Instead, I recall using Vick's Vapor rub on my nose and chest and wrapping my body with flannel. As a teen, doctors suggested a late-night drink of tea, lemon, and honey to "sweat it out."
  • Most importantly, I reminded myself that I am not good at asking for help. Being so used to caring for my needs and others, I easily wait too long to get others involved.
  • Covid diminished my energy and made me unable to go to a pharmacy to find my solutions. It is time to rely on others. They were there for the asking and wanted to help.

It is undoubtedly time to remember Maya Angelou...
My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

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