You Are Not Alone

Reflections on coronavirus from an eight-year cancer survivor

May 06, 2020 | Amy Wu, Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor

O

n a Friday afternoon in March, some of my colleagues and I were told to gather our things and plan to begin working remotely. News headlines were a window into the severity of COVID-19: deaths were mounting abroad and we were now seeing cases in the U.S., with more predicted to follow. “It’s probably all over the place,” a friend of mine said. Usually calm, I could hear the panic in her voice.

Amy Wu, Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor

Amy Wu, Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor

The following weeks made it clear that I would not be returning to the office any time soon – or to libraries, shops, movie theaters or restaurants for that matter. Life as I’d known it was suddenly on pause.

As I continue to adjust to life during the coronavirus, a reality that seemingly changed overnight, I am feeling more alone and unsettled than ever before. As a cancer survivor, this period of uncertainty brings me back to the deep isolation I felt when I was going through treatment.

When I was diagnosed, in addition to the physical isolation one may endure while going through treatment, I felt emotionally isolated. I am a first-generation Chinese American, and in my culture, you do not talk about cancer. I couldn’t discuss it with my family or friends, and I felt deeply alone during one of the hardest and most anxiety-inducing times in my life. Befriending fellow cancer survivors and leveraging the power of the online community was what helped me find my voice and cope during what I call my lowest point.

That was eight years ago, and the community I grew around me brought me back to life in many ways. In fact, the deep feelings of isolation and anxiety had almost become a distant memory in the eight years since I have been in remission. But that’s no more.

When we were ordered to stay-at-home due to the pandemic, I was once again alone, living in fear and wondering if life would ever be the same. I am extremely fortunate that I am in a good place health-wise, but as someone who is immunocompromised, the risks and uncertainties I and so many like me face are too many to count and can affect every facet of our lives. It’s hard for me to make sense of it all, and that scares me.

I realized, all I can do during this period of uncertainty is take the lessons I learned that helped me through my treatment and hope they do the same for me today. I am prioritizing my health, taking one day at a time and trying to find the light during this difficult time. I am staying connected to friends and to the advocacy community I’ve established online over the years, and I’ve replaced the things I loved with new hobbies, such as yoga, virtual film classes and finally reading the books that were always on my list. While I am still afraid of what’s to come, these small efforts help me connect with others and make the situation feel less daunting.

The knowledge I gained in that dark time has stayed with me, and today, I hold on to the confidence of knowing how resilient I can be as someone who has survived cancer. If you are navigating life with cancer in the middle of this pandemic, please remember you are not alone. Even in these challenging months, when isolation feels lonely and mentally taxing, when fear and anxiety abound, I know that we will get through this. And when we do, we’ll be even stronger for it.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and hold on to your spunk and spirit.

Sincerely,

Amy Wu, Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor  

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