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What Never Really Was

by Brooke BarnesSurvivor, Chronic Myeloid LeukemiaOctober 13, 2020View more posts from Brooke Barnes

Do you ever find yourself longing for some time in the past? An experience that, at the time didn’t seem remarkable or even enjoyable, but looking back all that you remember are the good parts. I started having this feeling recently about the early days of quarantine.

At first when things started reopening and it was suggested that we slowly start going back to our office for work, I thought it was going to be great. A few months ago, I would have done anything to get out of the house, even just to go into the office for work.

But now that it’s an option, the decision feels almost unbearable.

I find myself longing for the days that everyone was equally instructed to stay at home. The days that, yes, were full of confusion and fear, but also a feeling of safety. As long as I stayed inside the four walls of my house, I knew I was safe and could enjoy my days that were full of virtual happy hours, nightly runs in spacious parks or sidewalks, sufficient soap and toilet paper stock and no threat of being infected, or worse, infecting someone else.

This longing feeling for such a strange time is not unique to the early days of quarantine for me though. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could go back to the early days after my diagnosis that I spent in the hospital. I know it seems crazy since, similar to the start of the pandemic, it was full of uncertainty and endless questions. I spent countless hours wondering how my Leukemia diagnosis would affect my life in the future.

How complicated would it be to have kids? What if I didn’t respond well to my therapy or got even more sick? What if my medication stops working at some point?

But at least when I started having those questions I was in a safe space. Being in the hospital, you always had someone to ask those questions and if something went wrong there was someone there to help right away. The only thing you had to concentrate on was getting better and no one expected you to do anything else. If I was taking care of myself and focusing on getting healthy, everyone agreed I was doing the right thing.

As soon as I left those four walls of my hospital room though, I felt expectations shift. People forgot that I was still recovering from a life altering diagnosis and there was no one there to try and answer the million questions floating around in my head.

When I find myself dreaming about going back to times that I know were not as wonderful as I make them out to be in my head, I always try to figure out what I actually miss about them. I am not thankful for much about getting diagnosed with cancer, but what I do occasionally long for about that time is the simplicity that came with only needing to focus on one thing, my health.

In this time of uncertainty for all of us, I think that’s what I crave about those early quarantine days too. The simplicity. I was so thankful for the time spent working from home, knowing that no one was going to judge me for wanting to stay home to stay safe and having time to focus on things that are important to me, like health and fitness.

While I know that I can’t go back to those times in the past, and realistically they were not all that happy of times to begin with, I do try to take away the lessons I’ve learned through them. So, in the next few months I’m going to try to stop longing for a time that never really was and focus on creating a future that I never thought could become reality.

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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