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What Beating Cancer Taught Me About the Fear of COVID-19

by Beth ReedSurvivor, Stage 4 Hodgkin's LymphomaMarch 17, 2020View more posts from Beth Reed

Trauma is triggering, in whatever form it comes, the flashbacks, the physical sensations, the memories and most of all the reality.

The cancer family is familiar with the unknown, the worries, the wait time, the germs, the what ifs, the list goes on. To the ‘public’ I look strong, a fighter, a survivor, but what the public doesn’t know is that I work really hard at that, I fight to get out of bed, to face the day of unknowns, to wonder if today will be the day I get cancer again.

Some things from my cancer life have stuck with me and I am already a germaphobe about things, but try to keep it under wraps.

Person: Why are your knuckles so cracked?
Me: I have dry skin. 

Person: Why do you spray sanitizer so much?
Me: The subway was gross. 

Person: Have a sip of this great drink!
Me: I have a sore throat and don’t want to get you sick.

The list goes on as do my ‘tricks’, and I make it through, until now.

The reality of the Coronavirus is here. The news is constant, the press conferences are frustrating.

The Twitter refreshing is not healthy and worries are real. Events, cities and countries are shutting down.

Do people really not know to wash their hands?

But here I am, staring at my hands and wanting to serialize them every second. I am already on a heightened frequency and now, it’s becoming unbearable.

I am no longer immune compromised, but that sticks with you. It was me and it still feels real, part of me. The general public doesn’t understand what it is like to be in isolation, to be so sick you can’t literally do anything, and despite public service announcements, people are still coughing into the air.

To quote the cognitive behavioral approach, the percentage of me getting ‘it’ is low, and if I do, ‘will I die’ equation isn’t something I have time for anymore.

If I do get it, it isn’t like the typically person getting sick, it sends me into a dark spiral of cancer related memories, thoughts and fears, it’s debilitating.

How do I begin to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t know me about this when it comes to work? Our world is in a middle of a pandemic and I can’t even tell my boss I’m worried about coming to work, a job I am lucky and thankful to have, because my mental health is struggling.

As a nation we are barely doing what we need to to address this public health crisis, let alone mental health.

So here I am, reaching out to the cancer community who is better than any community I know. It might be the only community I know.

Beth walking after NYC half Beth racing for Stupid Cancer

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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