Thoughts on the Coronavirus, from a Cancer Survivor’s Mom

When people ask me if I am worried about my little cancer survivor and Coronavirus, I think my response is surprising. Yes, I was worried when we went to Florida and flew on a plane last September. I wiped down everything we touched and we washed our hands often. We can’t carry a sink with us, so we also sanitized. Yes, I was worried when I brought her to a restaurant in December, when Influenza was on the rise. I wiped down her table and she washed her hands before we ate. Yes, I was worried when she went to school carrying her snack in the fall. I had to trust that her hands would be clean before she peeled her mandarin orange and ate it during story time. Yes I worry. But do I worry MORE NOW?

Reese at the beach last week


Two years ago, my 4-year-old daughter Reese had a bone marrow transplant. For those of you who don’t know what this means, I will give you the cliff notes. First, they destroyed her bone marrow with chemotherapy that is so strong, no one could live through it. This eliminated her immune system entirely. Then, they transplanted bone marrow from another person (her donor) into Reese. We waited fifteen days for this to engraft in her body, and it did. Next, Reese’s new marrow (immune system) has to rebuilding itself, from scratch.

Reese’s road was more complicated than most. We held her new immune system hostage for about a year because her new cells were attacking her organs (graft vs host disease.) But last spring, everyone learned to get along, and Reese’s immune system has been growing since.

As you can see, I have a different perspective than most on “germs”. When something as simple as Rotavirus can threaten your child’s life, you pay attention and make certain you are doing EVERYTHING you can to avoid “germs”. This is a lifestyle, complete with very simple tasks that make the world safer from viruses.

But do I worry more NOW? No.

Reese has been taking the proper precautions to avoid sickness. It’s everyone else I was worried about. And you know what, now more people are making smart choices. We laugh that suddenly the supermarket is sold out of hand soap. My question is, what were these people doing before?? Regardless, they are washing their hands NOW.

I am receiving emails from every organization detailing the ways that they are CLEANING. How wonderful would it be if this level of diligence by United Airlines continued long after Coronavirus fades away? What if our gathering places were always deep cleaned during flu season or if our workout facility always wiped down the bikes and equipment after each class? But, most importantly, what if everyone washed their hands correctly after they go to the bathroom and before they eat? Now THAT could change the world.

I don’t think a normal person, who was born with a functioning immune system, needs to go to the lengths that I do with Reese. I will continue to protect her by doing my very best this season.

Our Power

But what if we squash this virus with our own power, the power of soap and diligence, and learn a valuable lesson about cleaning. And maybe, that lesson helps us for years to come. Sometimes, there is a silver lining? Time will tell.

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