Following the surge in COVID-19 cases all over the world, many countries/states/provinces have declared a state of emergency and some have even gone on complete lock down. In order to help contain the pandemic and “flatten the curve”, the public has been asked to stay home as much as possible and only go out if absolutely necessary. And, those who have contracted or have been in contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19 have to go on mandatory quarantine. For most of us who are used to living in a fast-paced environment, suddenly finding ourselves constrained to a box is nothing short of a nightmare!
On behalf of all bone marrow transplant patients and survivors, I’d like to say: WELCOME TO THE CLUB!
A bit of a background for those who don’t know me: I’m a two-time Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor. To treat my relapsed HL, I had to have an autologous bone marrow (stem cell) transplant. If you’d like to know more about that, check out this post: https://rachelesbattlewithhodgkinslymphoma.com/2017/08/21/the-stem-cell-transplant/
Having a bone marrow transplant involves a month long hospital stay (could be longer with complications) and another month or so of isolation at home after discharge. So in total, that’s about 2 to 3 months of isolation, with guest visits kept at a minimum! The grueling recovery period, including the nasty side effects and chemo brain, is the cherry on top that makes self-isolation just that much worse. The reason BMT patients are required to self-isolate for this long is to protect them from catching infections which could be deadly to them due to their dangerously low immunity, a result of the treatment. However, mental health is not to be taken lightly and self-isolation can do a number on your well being. Needless to say, we have MASTERED the skill of staying sane during self-isolation and in this post, I’d like to share some of the things I did during that period to keep me busy and entertained.
Before you write this off as childish or not something you might be interested in, WAIT! There’s a reason why sitting children down to colour is such a great way to get them to calm down. And as adults, we are no different. For as long as I could, I spent every morning at the hospital colouring in my colouring books as I listened to Frank Sinatra. No matter how crappy or anxious I was feeling, this was always a serene moment for me that was highly therapeutic. There you have it – in times of uncontrolled high stress moments, colour.
There are a few times per year when we can binge watch guilt-free: holidays. Well, now’s the time to catch up on all those Netflix shows you’ve been adding to your list! From movies and shows to documentaries, there’s a ton of interesting stuff online to watch!
Also, check out podcasts online! If there is a specific topic or thing you’re interested in, chances are there’s a podcast about it.
PICK UP A HOBBY
Whether it’s picking up a new hobby or an old one that was tossed aside due to time constraints, now is the perfect time to get on it! Pick up that guitar or book you’ve been wanting to read. Draw something, paint, bake, cook. I will personally use this time to pick up writing again.
If you don’t have any hobbies or have no idea what you like, this is the perfect time to discover what tickles your fancy!
If you’re a video game fanatic like me but always feel too guilty to binge game, well now you have the perfect excuse to do so! I highly recommend it for the anxious insomniacs out there – video gaming really helped through some rough nights during recovery.
If gaming isn’t really your thing, try playing board games with family members or friends you’re quarantining with or online games with friends if you’re quarantining alone.
Do you feel like you want to be more productive? Is there a particular topic that you want to learn more about? Do you feel like supplementing your resume with a certificate? Taking an online course is the perfect way to gain new skills during this downtime. Check out Coursera or edX.
Start a blog/vlog! Maybe you want to talk about how the Coronavirus has impacted you or how you’re spending your time in quarantine. Or maybe you have specific interests that you’d like to put out there or get a conversation started over. I started my blog while going through my cancer treatment and it really helped me navigate through difficult times.
We may not be able to go out, but we can still use Facetime, Skype and Whatsapp to communicate with people! This is a great time to reconnect with friends and family, especially since we don’t always have the luxury of talking to them as often as we’d like because of our school/work schedules. If we’ve learned something from COVID-19, it’s to never take your loved ones for granted.
The best advice I received from a nurse on discharge was to use my “me” time in isolation to self-reflect and meditate. This was crucial to my mental recovery but I also think this is relevant to everyone. People nowadays are always rushing to get somewhere and have very little time to themselves. Having this once in a lifetime opportunity to hit pause and just look inwards is a blessing.
INTEREST IN SCIENCE
If the COVID-19 crisis has sparked your interest in science, as a microbiologist, this makes me so happy! If you’re wondering what on earth viruses are and what they do or why they do what they do, I’m happy to tell you there’s a ton of great information online that delve into the world of microscopic organisms that have existed for billions of years! Check out Microbiology for dummies and Essential Microbiology – PDF versions can be found online. Alternatively, you can reach out to me and I’d be happy to chat with you about microbiology!
When you feel too overwhelmed or claustrophobic, take a deep breath and remember. Remember why you have to do this. Think of your families and loved ones, think of everyone else’s families and loved ones. Think of your grandparents, your loved ones who are living with diabetes, cardiac problems, high blood pressure, cancer. Think of how you are directly contributing to flattening the curve and to the reduction of COVID-19 cases. Think of all the lives you are indirectly saving just by staying at home.
Stay healthy, Stay safe.