Life After Cancer: The Bright Side of COVID-19"In a dark time, the eye begins to see." -- Theodore Roethke, American Poet & winner of the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
In light of the scary statistics we are seeing on the news, it may seem like an oxymoron to speak about the bright of side of COVID-19. You probably could say the same thing about having lung cancer. However, as difficult as it may be to see, there is always a bright side. As we navigate these unprecedented times, I find myself reflecting and drawing on what I’ve learned as a stage IV lung cancer survivor. I wanted to share some of my observations, thoughts and resources with you, in the hopes of making us stronger as we face these tough times together.
As cancer survivors many of us have travelled a journey cast with shadow and light. Seeing the bright side, especially at first, may be difficult if not impossible to see or even imagine. Ultimately, many of us find meaning from those things we might have taken for granted.
We might have found new appreciation for being able to enjoy the simple, day-to-day activities of life. Some of us might have found new direction or purpose in our lives and careers. Many share stories of how having had cancer inspired them to be a better boss or launch a new business. In general, many cite a heightened clarity on their life and what’s important. We are seeing some of this play out now on a grander, global scale.
Take notice of the bright side and what it reveals as it unfolds before us. There are more children playing in their yards. Strangers are offering to deliver groceries to those who are at a higher risk. The promise of technology to bring us together rather than apart is playing out with virtual happy hours, meetings and events. A neighbor buys $1,200 of food from a struggling restaurant and donates it to a food kitchen. Businesses are shifting operations to make hand sanitizer and medical gear. Folks at home are making masks for those in need.
The rush of creative and compassionate energy is coming from all angles: artists are turning boarded-up storefronts and silent sidewalks into one big art exhibition, bearing messages of solidarity and comfort. Musicians and citizens of the world alike are singing and playing from their balconies and over the internet. Our collective kindness and compassion will continue to sustain us when this is over.
As cancer survivors, we also know about the importance of self-care. Our minds, hearts, bodies, souls and yes, even our hands from so much washing need a respite! For your hands, you might treat yourself to some good hand cream. For your mind, perhaps a good book, or one of the free online courses currently being offered. For your body, maybe an online yoga class. For your heart, it may be reconnecting with friends over a virtual happy hour or – if you have the skills – making masks at home to distribute to those in need. Find something that nourishes you, that brings you joy and a sense of wellbeing.
While there is a bright side, it is natural to have concerns. We may be overwhelmed and at times need help. We have questions and are looking for answers. Luckily, if you find yourself needing help now, there are a myriad of kind souls and caring organizations that are here to help you. If you are feeling particularly strong, there are also ways you can help others. Below are a number of resources from the American Lung Association that you may find helpful or want to get involved with.
I hope you will draw strength from your own experiences and the magnanimity of our fellow earth citizens as we aspire for a better future. We are apart but not alone.
American Lung Association Programs and Resources
- Online support communities
The Lung Association’s free online communities offer peer-to-peer support from the comfort of your own home. You can start or respond to threads on the communities, upload photos and search for specific topics to find other members who share the same interests and are dealing with similar lung diseases. Join one or more of eight Lung Association supported communities by registering online.
- Get an Online Mentor
The Lung Association has partnered with Imerman Angels to match mentors with those facing lung cancer. Sign-up to seek support from someone who has been in your shoes or become a mentor and offer support to another person facing lung cancer.
- Call the Lung HelpLine
Experienced and knowledgeable healthcare professionals are ready to assist you with questions you have about COVID-19 or any other lung health questions. Along with bilingual Spanish-speaking staff, the HelpLine offers a live language interpretation service for over 250 languages. Call 1-800-LUNGUSA or submit a question online for one-on-one support.
- Patient webinars: COVID-19 and Chronic Lung Disease
The Lung Association has scheduled weekly webinars to update patients with chronic lung disease about the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen and ask questions as Dr. Albert Rizzo, Chief Medical Officer, shares important updates or recommendations. The webinars will be held each Monday at 1 pm CT. Registration for these weekly updates is open, and you can watch past webinars and access frequently updated questions online.
Denise Zimmerman is a stage IV lung cancer survivor and a LUNG FORCE Hero. Her EACH Breath Blog series, “Life After Lung Cancer” takes a look at the triumphs and challenges of being a cancer survivor.
Blog last updated: May 22, 2020