Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

5 Apr 2020

Lockdown Quarantine and Long Term Illness

This is going to surprise you (unless you are a self-isolating ninja already) but certain aspects of this global pandemic lockdown quarantine is actually making the everyday better for some of us. Life has become so full again I've ended up writing a blog post after about three months!

Aside from moments of complete meltdown and panic, I'm bouncing from  the deepest depths to the highest highs on an almost hourly basis. I was handling it relatively well until I needed to visit the hospital last week for a blood test.  Whether it was the fact that I hadn't left my property for about a month, or the fact that I had to enter a high risk situation, but the trip to pathology brought back all the feelings I had when first told I had stage three breast cancer.

Receiving a diagnosis of a life threatening illness is kinda similar to the situation you are all finding yourself in now. Firstly there's the shock that this is actually happening, you are unprepared, this wasn't your story, you had a plan which now you can't follow - albeit for a short time or forever. Then there is the reality that you have to stop work.  Ok maybe there will be help from the Social Services - ha good luck with that, because maybe there won't. Shortly after you find out that your treatment will involve long periods of feeling unwell and you are likely to not be able to leave the house, also, because you have a compromised immune system you had better not go anywhere public or let anyone visit you if they have a cold or cough or anything slightly unhealthy. So - how long will this go on for, not being able to work, staying at home all the time, not seeing anyone.  Well they can't actually tell you that, it depends on many factors. 

See where I am going here. Shock and panic all ensue and it takes a long while for your mind to come to terms with 'this is the shit hitting the fan' for real. After many many months, or even years of receiving treatment you may find yourself in the lucky situation of being able to beat the illness, although the chances of you ever being completely back to normal are reduced even if the scars are only mental.

Eventually the panic dissipates, (well it has to really or you would kill yourself with shock), but of course there will always be triggers that bring back the reality and take you back to that early stage of anxiety at the confrontation of your own mortality. 
This pandemic will probably have done that to many people with long term illness even though they are well skilled by now at being on their own in the house and keeping the anxiety at bay.  Once that shit has hit the fan you are heightened to the fact that now anything can happen, that it's not always going to be happening to someone else.  

So you ask, why did I say that some aspects of life are now better. I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that it would have been great to get this much support when you found out you had a life threatening illness. We sat at home alone while everyone else was at work, too busy, on holiday, going to parties, going for days out, going to restaurants and on and on. We sat there staring at social media wondering if anyone had a bit of time to message or read our posts, or put something entertaining up online. 

And now there's never been so much to occupy us, it's the busiest and most entertained I've been in years. Theres my daily yoga sessions with Adrienne, my weekly creative writing group via Zoom with Clare, my collaboration project with Emily for Holy Week and hourly podcasts and videos from celebrities like Miranda Hart and Tom Allen. I've been sung to by so many celebrities and everyone, I mean everyone is on social media 24/7. I've got photos to take for one project, seeds to plant for a challenge and then theres the home cooking and DIY which I now get a hand with because husband is stuck here with me. By now us 'long termers' have binged watch all the tv shows, read all the books, learnt the new craft, knitted ten jumpers, and I'm not even exaggerating, so we finally have some bloody company, even if it's via Zoom or House Party. 

Because I am in a high risk 'vulnerable' category I now get priority with my shopping. Nowadays everyone is careful about spreading their germs, good God they are even wearing masks now and gloves, oh I dreamt of that when I had no white cells - the day when other people would take care not to give me their germs. I remember on so many occasions - once complaining to the woman serving me in the bakery that she had a bad cold and maybe she shouldn't be serving food. That went down like a lead balloon. After one visit for a hospital test I ended up with shingles, I suspect because a person with a cold wasn't wearing a mask or washing their hands or something of that ilk.

Things are going to change a lot after all this. In so many ways it's not possible to comprehend. I am truly gutted for all of you who have had your dreams dashed, the ones you've worked years for because I know how it feels. But one thing I do hope is that now everyone has experienced the isolation and the need for caution, that perhaps there will be more awareness for what it is like to have a long term health condition, because, dear people, there are some who do this all the time. Your 'new normal' is just 'normal' for thousands who have illness, disability, no support network or finance. 

If anything good comes out of this I hope that true empathy will now be experienced by a large number of people. I pray that the sense of community and support for fellow humans will continue. I pray that the inequality of wages between non essential jobs and those that have kept us alive (whether it's nurses, cleaners, delivery drivers, supermarket workers) will be re-evaluated and there will be a new found respect for anyone who put themselves at risk to stack the shelves, drive the bus, shop for a friend.  

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