15 Days

Lynn and I have been self-isolating for 15 days now. This means that we have not gone to the store, we have not visited friends or family, we have not had friends and family visit us, we have not gotten together with anyone in public places. The closest we have come to in-person human contact is saying a socially distant “hello” to strangers we meet when walking in the cemetery.

I mention this because we hear about people who say they are self-isolating, but then they are just “running out to the store for a few things,” or “just getting together with so-and-so,” etc. I’m not here to judge, but when the stakes are so high, I think people should take this pandemic thing very, very seriously. If most of the experts are correct, people with COVID-19 infection will start showing symptoms within 14 days. If they are correct (big if), Lynn and I are not infected. This means that we can not spread it to each other or anyone else unless we go out and become newly infected. Of course, the experts don’t all agree and some claim that the incubation period could be as high as 21 days. For this reason, I’d like to continue our self-isolation for another week, just to be cautious.

At some point, we will have to leave the house, but for the time being we have everything we need at home. I’m not sure what the world will look like when we do venture back into it. Will everyone be wearing masks and gloves? What will the world be like if you can’t tell if someone is smiling or frowning? How long will we continue to look at outsiders (people who haven’t quarantined with us) as potential carriers of death? What will our social interactions be like? When will parks and movie theaters and concert halls, not to mention restaurants and pubs, be filled again with people? I don’t have the answers. I don’t think anyone does because there is still so much unknown, but these are the kinds of things I think about with the time I have between reading the news on the internet and watch the news briefings on television.

This blog is supposed to be about one couple’s journey with melanoma. Who knew when we started our journey that it would join paths with the world’s journey with a global pandemic? As far the melanoma is concerned, I feel fine and there’s nothing new since my last scans. My next scans are scheduled for early June, but I’m thinking those might get pushed out. Even if I dared by then to go into a hospital again, the hospital might be busy with other things. My scan interval was recently changed from every three months to every four. Maybe now, we’ll jump straight to every six. I’ll have to see what my doctor says about that.

As I said, I feel good, but I don’t think that I am invulnerable. At first, I laughed off people’s suggestions that I was high risk due to my melanoma, diabetes and asthma. I figured that 1. I did not have active melanoma and was not on any immuno-suppressive therapy, and 2. my diabetes and asthma were both well-controlled, so I didn’t consider myself high-risk. For weeks, however, I have been reading about healthy people with no known risk factors going from fit to very ill almost over-night. I’m not as confident as before. Just because I feel strong doesn’t mean that a tiny little virus can’t take me down. Melanoma was scary, but I always figured that I’d have time to try different treatments. If one treatment didn’t work, then I could try another treatment. I also assumed that I would always have ready access to some of the best health care in the world. This COVID-19 is a different animal. It can take you suddenly and when it does you may have access at best to hurried and harried, overloaded and overworked health care.

So we sit home and wait. It’s kind of like one of those apocalyptic movies where the few survivors of some dreaded plague or nuclear catastrophe sit in their cellars and wait for signs that it’s safe to leave their sanctuaries. I don’t know when it will ever be safe, and as I said, and I don’t know what kind of world we will find when we do venture out into it. Lynn and I have talked about it and she was saying how much air travel changed after 9/11. There will be changes after this but on a wider scale because this virus and others like it will touch almost every aspect of our lives. I feel sorry for my kids and the kids they might have, because the world they inherit will likely be a lot less innocent than the one we grew up in. Even if we survive, so much will be lost.

Will we learn anything from this, other than that talking about preparing for a disaster isn’t the same as actually preparing for it? I don’t know. I’d like to think that the people of this world will take this timeout to re-evaluate their priorities. I’d like to think that they’d see how fragile everything is and what’s really important isn’t the money you can accumulate or the things you can buy with it, but the human connections. I’d like to think that people would learn to value those connections, not just with family and friends, but with strangers we haven’t met. This virus is teaching us in a bizarre way just how inter-connected we are and how much we all depend on each other, from the doctor in the ER, to the checkout girl at the supermarket, to the factory worker in China. We all need each other, a lot more than we need the next shiny bauble.

I’ll leave it at that. Stay safe, everyone.

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