Notes from a lock-down

I’m not so worried about melanoma or diabetes these days. My new worry is COVID-19. Lynn and I are in lock-down. Ten days ago, I bought a bunch of groceries, or at least as much as I could given the limited stock of many items on the store shelves. We figure that we have about enough food and other essentials to last at least a month before we have to think about restocking. We also have three laying hens that are giving us fresh eggs every day, so as long as we can keep them supplied with feed, that’s another food source. So, we’re not so worried about running out of food (at least in the near term), but we are worried.

People keep asking Lynn “how is Rich doing?” When they ask this, they are referring to my cancer, thinking that everyone who has cancer or cancer treatment is immuno-compromised. I’m not immuno-compromised, having been on immunotherapy drugs and not chemo, but they seem to forget that, no matter how many times they’ve been told. There is a hypothetical chance that I could be at increased risk of cytokine storm, but there is so much that is unknown about this “novel” virus that nobody can say with certainty. I am, however, at increased risk for other reasons. I’m 63 years old. I’ve read some advisories that suggest people over 60 should shelter in place, while other advisories have raised that number to over 70. I guess I should play it safe and go with the lower number. In addition to my age, I have two other risk factors — asthma and diabetes. Both are well controlled at the moment, but the statistics out of China report a higher incident of death from COVID-19 in patients with those two underlying morbidities. Underlying morbidities. Sounds pretty, well, morbid, doesn’t it?

We don’t know what’s out there or how long this situation will last, but since that shopping trip (and Lynn’s trip to the post office that same day to pick up baby chicks that she ordered), we’ve been self-isolating at home, or sheltering in place, whatever you call it. I’m still unemployed and Lynn is furloughed so we don’t have to go anywhere, but not being able to go out for so much as a cup of coffee, has us both feeling restless and fearful. We have a lot of time on our hands now, which we both spend too much of by reading or watching the news. We keep watching the death tolls go up with no peak, let alone any end in sight. After ten days, we are both fairly confident that we do not have the virus, but we worry about others. We worry about our kids who are not isolating. They tell us that they have restricted their movements, but we know they haven’t limited their exposure completely. We worry that they could get sick and we wouldn’t even be able to see them. We read about people who are sick and dying alone and it breaks our hearts. In Italy, people can’t even get buried and people can’t even say good-bye to their loved ones. Who thought that we’d live to see a day like this? The experts warned us, but we could not imagine it and I think that’s why we were so unprepared for it. It’s like something out of a science fiction novel. Maybe that’s why they’re calling it a “novel” virus.

In addition to fear, Lynn is feeling a lot of anger. I shouldn’t speak for her, and I won’t, except to say that I understand her anger. We’re both upset about our government leaders who have not prepared the country for this, and we’re both upset about a system that prioritizes profits over people. When I hear people in government talk about the “trade-offs” of protecting lives versus protecting the economy, it makes me sick to my stomach. I’m not naive and I always knew that in a capitalist society the bottom line is the bottom line, but to hear officials say it out loud and without apology makes me sad for humanity. Other things that make me sad are people who refuse to shelter-in-place. I’m not talking about essential workers such as police, fire, or health care workers, but about the people who could stay at home and don’t. I’m talking about the people who “have” to run out to the store to pick up this or that item, or the people who gather in public places, or the people who let their kids out to play with other kids. The list could go on and on. Are these people that stupid or that selfish? Are they more concerned with their individual freedoms than the common good? Liberty and responsibility are inseparable, yet I see people running out to stockpile supplies (and guns and ammunition) in an every-man-for-himself free-for-all. If we just thought in terms of community, we would all be safer, both from the virus and from the maelstrom of fear, panic and greed that drives neighbor against neighbor.

I didn’t mean for this post to get so serious, but ten days in isolation with too much time to worry leads to these kinds of thoughts. We’ve both been thinking about ways to break out of this rat race that we call the system. There has to be more to life than chasing a bigger paycheck and accumulating goods and increasing the GDP. We both wonder if this crisis isn’t an opportunity for the world to stop and re-evaluate its priorities. Maybe something can be learned from this, but I’m not sure. Speaking for myself, you’d think that I would have learned my lesson after having a near-death experience with Stage IV melanoma, but I didn’t. I went back to work chasing the same old cheese. I fear that the world will also put this tragic crisis behind them without even a lesson learned, chasing the same old cheese.

Stay safe everyone.

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