The Mighty Logo

A Message During the COVID-19 Outbreak, From a Breast Cancer Survivor

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

A year ago at this time a disease was attempting to take over my body. It had already invaded my breast and it was growing at an exponential rate, threatening to spread.

Life as I knew it stopped. Everything was put on hold as I entered survival mode. With no certainties for my future, I began a fight I never imagined I would be in.

Today, I’m watching the world follow a similar trajectory as it struggles against the invasion of COVID-19.

A familiar blend of disbelief, uncertainty, and worry is sweeping across our country as, all of a sudden, reality has started to shift for millions of people.

And while I recognize comparing a world-wide pandemic to an individual’s battle against cancer is unreasonable in many ways, there are very real comparisons I can’t ignore.

The overnight change to daily life. The anxiety of the unknown. The fear of sickness and death. The confusion of who to trust. And the realization that yes, this can happen to you. To us.

Even the questions are eerily the same…

What can we do to stop the spread? What will be the damage if it’s not contained? What’s my risk? How do I protect myself? Could I die? How long will this last?

You’ll learn, as I did, that there are always answers to some questions but never to all of them. This discrepancy in knowledge can be frightening.

Stuck between realism and surrealism, we’re unable to know how to move forward in such unprecedented times yet understanding more than ever that life just keeps going.

Officials are warning this is only the beginning. There are difficult choices and changes to be made. And they have to be done quickly to result in certain outcomes.

At the very least, there will be the inconvenience of canceling travel, limiting social engagements, and the disruption of daily routine. At the very worst, there will be loss of financial stability, health, and life.

They say the effects will be long-lasting. That we’ll be feeling the repercussions from this crisis for years to come. I know this can make our efforts feel hopeless.

But I also know, as someone who’s asked the questions, felt the anxiety, faced the unknown, made the hard decisions, experienced loss, feared death, and is still living through the aftermath, that we have the ability to be survivors.

And I’m not using the word “survivor” to mean someone who is guaranteed life rather than death. There is no such promise. To me, a survivor is someone who accepts there is no certainty in life except for how we react to it.

Being a survivor is about how we live, not just that we are living.

In this unpredictable situation, we have the opportunity to control this one thing. It’s up to us to choose how we cope, how we treat each other, how we work together for the greater good.

I guarantee our choices will be what defines us and our actions will be the impact that really lasts.

So from one survivor to hopefully another, let me finish with some simple advice…

Search the internet at your own risk. Follow the recommendations of professionals. Stay home if you’re sick. Wash your hands. Cook good food. Enjoy a glass of wine. Go outside. Take a walk. Or a nap. Talk on the phone. Write a letter. Read a book. Listen to music. Play with your kids. Learn something new. Rediscover something old. Love your family. Count your blessings. Simplify your life. Have compassion for others. Offer help if you can. Ask for help if you need it. Take a deep breath. Share your toilet paper. And live one day at a time.

This post was originally posted on the author’s personal blog.

Originally published: March 20, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home