14 Apr Lockdown starts with the Diagnosis by Ryan Saxton
The coronavirus outbreak has caused disruption to almost all facets of our everyday life. Routines are often vital to how we as human’s function. At the moment our usual routines are broken. Daily activities for the majority, drop the kids off at school, pop to the shops, go to the gym, have a coffee with a friend, and of course go to work. This normality has been taken away from us. Understandably, it is strange to adapt to, some may be finding it tough to fill their days, keep positive and stick to some form of daily routine without their usual services available.
I myself have had to adapt my normal routine. The nature of my work has changed. Without access to my office, I have altered so to work more remotely. I have tried to formulate a structure for a home workout so to keep fit without being able to pop to the gym after work. Without being able to see my friends often, we have changed how we find our joy, and have actually started to keep in touch a lot more over the phone or via video call. Whilst trying to find the little positives in everyday life, there is still of course the times it becomes frustrating. We all don’t know how long this is going to last and that can become worrying, you start to think of events you have planned in the summer and how they are going to be affected. You feel helpless as you can’t plan ahead, you are not sure when you can next see loved ones and friends.
This is not said to spread negativity and upset people. However, it made me notice how there are people living with this reality on a daily basis. In my instance, it made me reflect on my Grandads experience, when he was diagnosed with blood cancer seven years ago. The damning affects such a diagnosis can have spreads much deeper than your physical health. My Grandad was still working up to the day he was diagnosed. He liked to stay active and was always doing odd jobs around the house. His diagnosis meant he had to leave his job and physically, due to the exhaustion caused by chemotherapy he felt much less capable of working around the house. Similar to our current climate, people are reflecting on their financial situation. Not being able to work is damaging for people’s mental health, not only because it’s a vital function in most people’s daily routines. Furthermore, the worry and stress to provide money for yourself or for families and the future is a real mental stress and something which the coronavirus outbreak as put upon us all. My Grandad having to leave his job after his diagnosis meant he had to become regularly more stringent in his spending and keeping on top of his finances, and it became a constant stress he had to consider.
The main stress came from the loss of the normal routine of day to day life though. Something which we can all relate to at this testing time. He told us that he felt tired sometimes making a cup of tea. His normal routine was shattered, the things that kept him occupied, that kept him active and was his version of normality was stripped away from him. However, It’s not only day to day activities being affected through a blood cancer diagnosis which hold similarities with the majority of the countries experience during this coronavirus outbreak.
There is a scene in Back to the Future where Marty McFly looks at a picture of his family when he goes into the past and they start to disappear due to a changing timeline. I often think that is similar to how your life can feel like when your told you have cancer. Visions of your future family, seeing your children achieve new things, seeing your grandkids grow up, get married. Your plans to go travelling and see new parts of the world. All of it can suddenly feel in doubt, faded, because similarly to how we are unaware how long our experience with the coronavirus will go on for, a cancer diagnosis can cast doubt over everything you have envisioned in the future. That fading feeling was also seen in how I saw my Grandad’s demeanour. Mentally this must have cast a weight on him, and probably against his instinct, his attitude and personality began to fade. The frustration became taxing, and he often became more agitated, angry or sad. I’ve had days where I have been in the house all day, not able to do anything, and my temper becomes shorter, the way I process things mentally changes as I became more lackadaisical. I can only imagine that feeling of loss of determination or enthusiasm for everyday activities, when put into my Grandads situation, when that isolation and exhaustion is inevitable and taken out of your control.
Lastly, a key thing that touched me, and I had to reflect on, was how my Grandad must have felt, with the feeling of isolation since his diagnosis. At a time where we are all being told to stay inside and aren’t able to see family and friends due to health concerns. My Grandad was told to do the same, his conditions weakened his immune system and if any of us had any flu symptoms it was too risky to go see him. He didn’t go out as much; he was unable to continue his job due to these risks and had to live his life with a much more significant feeling of fear about his health. A concern which a lot of us are reflecting on now. The isolation of having to stay away from loved ones, distance yourself because of a hidden threat to your health and the feeling of helplessness as you can’t predict how long this concern would last, is a feeling
blood cancer sufferers have to deal with every day, from the moment they are diagnosed.
R.I.P Grandad 1932-2014