Note: This is a letter sent to the editor of the Dallas Morning News during the week following Christmas, 2020.
WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GET A CANCER DIAGNOSIS DURING A PANDEMIC
We know how cruel the coronavirus can be. One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of these restrictions is the loneliness and despair of the patients who cannot be in direct contact with their loved ones.
My family has discovered how this affects those of us with serious non-COVID conditions. My wife has recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of kidney cancer that will require chemotherapy and surgery. She has had numerous surgeries, tests, and meetings with her urologist, surgeon, and soon with her oncologist. I have not been able to be with her for any of these meetings. I sit in the car in parking garages, fast food parking lots, and the living room of our home waiting for the phone call from her and her doctors and the latest word on her condition and the planned response.
I drop her off at the hospital or the doctor’s office. Watch her disappear into the caverns of today’s medical facilities. I can’t hold her hand while she’s waiting to be called for a diagnostic procedure or a report of findings. During these meetings that describe what her condition will require I don’t see the response on her face. All I can do is listen intently to the sound of her voice and the measured carefully calibrated comments of the doctors.
I know we are not alone with this situation. One of the times I was sitting in a parking lot waiting anxiously for her call, I noticed that on both sides of me were people sitting alone looking ahead vacantly in wait for a call just like me. This process is undoubtedly repeated thousands of times a day across the country with families all suffering from the distance from our loved ones in these most anxiety-laden and fear-producing experiences imaginable. We are one with the families of COVID-19 patients in this respect.
My entreaty to the caregivers is to remember that we who are in desperate straits have no desire to disturb the life-saving intensive care of COVID-19 patients. We do hope that our caregivers will recognize the difficulty of these enforced solo flights into the world of threatening illness. That you keep us as well informed as you can on a timely basis. We have no recourse other than the phone call, email, or text message for the next bit of information that will help us comfort our loved ones who are largely going it alone.
God bless all those health care professionals struggling with a once-in-a-lifetime health crisis. Those of us who stand and wait for the word on our loved ones who are suffering with one of the many conditions that plague us depend on you to help us do our best for our loved ones in their solitary journey.
Dec. 30, 2020