Do you feel lucky?
Last week I discovered that some rats had claimed my backyard daybed as their personal restroom. Initially horrified, I avoided it for several days. Finally, armed with gloves, a pressure hose and a lot of bleach, I began the task of reclaiming it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to return it to human habitability, but at the very least I felt confident that I had found an activity so unappealing that I would secure myself several blessed hours of solitude. After over a month of abundant quality time with my family, it turns out I was ready to trade them in for hours of cleaning rodent feces. It’s really not personal. My family is lovely. But this introvert needs alone time. I think even if I was quarantining with The Holy One herself, I’d need a little break by now.
While cleaning this abomination, tossing some of the detritus, I discovered a swarm of thousands of bees had set up residence in our yard waste bin. Super! Pests, both of the rodent and insect variety, a pandemic, a country and world that once seemed fairly stable unraveling at a shocking clip, and then my day capped off by my beloved TIVO crapping out. The possibility that I had died and gone to The Bad Place did cross my mind, but Ted Danson was nowhere to be found. On the upside, with all these calamities, who even has time to think about lung cancer?
A lot of people have said to me, “omg, this pandemic situation must be so much worse for you.” That’s so sweet to consider me, but the truth is, nope, not really. I mean, it’s not great. But, also, I’ve been here for a while now. I’m used to it. It’s honestly kind of, I dunno, refreshing? that so many regular civilians are getting a tiny glimpse into life out here in scaryland where death isn’t such an abstract concept. I don’t want anyone to suffer, but welcome to my world, y’know?
Like cancer, this pandemic isn’t going to be easily cured. Everything isn’t going to “be ok.” Our world is likely going to be forever altered. Denial isn’t a helpful approach. This isn’t the time to try to return to “normal.” This is the time to adapt and learn how to live with what is. (FWIW, here’s a quick article I recommend on what to say when everything is not going to be ok.)
My friend Tori has some great coping strategies she’s learned from her experience with cancer that can help people struggling with this pandemic: compartmentalization, grieving, acceptance, distraction (I encourage you to read her blog post). To Tori’s list, I’d add, gratitude: find something for which you feel grateful. It doesn’t have to be grand. It can be prized alone-time amidst a pile of rat feces.
I remember once I went to visit my friend Erin for one of her chemo infusions. The hospital was old and cramped with most of the patients crowded into windowless non-private area. But, Erin had scored a private room, with a fabulous view of San Francisco. We played scrabble, luxuriating in the space, feeling lucky, even as chemo coursed into her veins.
The world is a long way away from being ok, and let’s not try to pretend it is (please, please keep up your social distancing). But, a new perspective isn’t all bad, and luck is relative. Find your rat shit silver lining.
Addendum: For those looking for reliable information about coronavirus and lung cancer, I highly recommend the regularly published statements (jointly produced by the top lung cancer organizations) to learn what is known about the disease, find reliable sources of information, and be aware of its potential impact on vulnerable populations, including those with lung cancer. You can find the most recent statement posted here.