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Masking It

by Anny CarrollSurvivor, Stage 3B Hodgkins LymphomaMay 28, 2020View more posts from Anny Carroll

Recently, I’ve seen numerous people talk about how difficult it is to wear a mask. “It’s too hot.” “I can’t breathe in it.” “It makes me feel claustrophobic.” I’ve had several people ask me how I can possibly stand wearing one all day at work. So let’s talk about masking it!

Easy. I’ve had quite a bit of practice. I was diagnosed with stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during my junior year of college. My immune system was pretty much nonexistent and in order to be able to attend classes, I had to wear a face mask every single day, all day. Here are a few things I did while wearing my mask.

  1. I was wearing a mask on the day I moved into my apartment. We drove to all the nearest hospitals so that I knew where to go if something happened. Even a small temperature could be very harmful.
  2. I was wearing a mask when I told my other 21 year olds friends that I had cancer.
  3. I was wearing a mask on the first day of classes. People stared in the classrooms, people stared in the labs, and people stared in the halls.
  4. I was wearing a mask when one of my professors told us to go around the room and say something about ourselves. I was tired of everyone staring so I said I had cancer which was why I had to wear a mask.
  5. I was wearing a mask when someone hugged me and said how they had a bad cold.
  6. I was wearing a mask while my friends disinfected every table we sat at.
  7. I was wearing a mask while I set alarms on my phone to remind me to take the four different medications I needed.
  8. I was wearing a mask when people would stop and ask if I was a germaphobe.
  9. I was wearing a mask when people said how considerate it was of me to not want to get others sick. You’re right. It wasn’t because at one point I had 48 immature white blood cells when you’re supposed to have at least a couple thousand to help fight off illnesses.
  10. I was wearing a mask when people asked what was on my chest. It was my port that went straight into a vein so that when they put a large needle into my chest, the chemotherapy drugs wouldn’t burn me.
  11. I was wearing a mask when I got winded walking five minutes from my friend’s car to our classroom.
  12. I was wearing a mask when I would let my friend walk into class first because I didn’t like when people would stare.
  13. I was wearing a mask when I had to decide if I should wear the blonde wig or the brunette wig because I had started to lose my hair.
  14. I was wearing a mask when I attended my 7:45 Thermodynamics II class the day after I spent four hours at a cancer center receiving four different types of chemotherapy.
  15. I now wear a mask every day to work. In case my short hair, scars, and constant anxiety weren’t enough of a reminder of having had cancer, I now get to wear something I never thought I’d have to again.

I won’t deny that it can be difficult to wear a mask. They can be uncomfortable and make you feel claustrophobic. I never imagined that I would have to wear a face mask again. Despite the fact that I associate wearing a mask with the worst time in my life, I still wear one every day to work because we’re helping to prevent the spread of the virus.

If you ask my friends and family, I didn’t complain a lot when I was sick. I had an endless list of things I could’ve complained about and I had every right to because I was a 21 year old trying to pass her engineering classes while fighting cancer. But, one thing that never even crossed my mind to complain about was having to wear a mask. I think it would’ve been nice though if my biggest complaint was having to wear a face mask for my 30 minute trip to the grocery store.

All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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