This article was written by Haley Zora, a blood cancer survivor.
Life in Isolation
Surviving isolation is a skill I’ve been forced to learn at three separate times in my life, and to be completely honest it wasn’t exactly thrilling at any time. Chemotherapy, a broken leg with a compressed vertebrae, and now COVID-19 have kept me from regular life and mostly stuck in my home. However, isolation does not have to be sitting at home staring at the tv blasting through Netflix. Granted, when I first started chemo this was more or less my regular routine, until I was able to find some other things to keep me entertained and away from the couch for at least a little. I found that if I was immobile or didn’t have any kind of mental stimulation for a while, I would start to feel depressed and would want to sleep just to make the time pass more quickly. My most low times were when I would think “and you, lucky Haley, get to do the exact same thing tomorrow, and the next day…” However, I also felt guilty for thinking these things because I knew there were people in worse shape than me and I felt bad complaining.
My family and friends would start bringing around books to read, puzzles to do, or anything to get me out of my slump. It was then I realized that just getting up or engaging in anything other than a screen would make me feel better. Sometimes it was hard to get the motivation to start anything, but I always knew that as soon as I started I would feel better and like I accomplished something that day.
Here is a list of things that I found to help me when I feel like I’m in a weird state of lost purpose and boredom. They helped me to focus my attention on creating, moving, or thinking and make things more interesting!
Keep a list of things that you always wanted to do “when you have the time.” This gives you a to-do list when you feel like it.
Move things around to keep your space fresh. Hang new pictures, reorganize, and throw away clutter.
Keep in touch with family often with video calls. I “attended” my cousin’s wedding via Skype when I wasn’t allowed to fly. Dressing up for the occasion was fun too!
Keep plants. I went a little overboard on this and started an actual jungle in my living room of my apartment. They also make your space feel clean and bright.
Try a new hobby. I tried guitar and sign language.
Sit in the sun. I am basically a lizard and love to bask in the sun, indoors or outdoors. Pretend you’re on the beach.
Nap when you want. Just because you want to be somewhat productive doesn’t mean you can’t have naps!
Try to avoid being in front of a screen all day. It’s so easy to get sucked into the social media vortex. Try to be cognisant of how much time you’re on there.
Yoga/ workout. Walking, running, full on weightlifting- whatever you’re able to do and gets you moving. This time around I’m a big fitness nut, so this is #1 on my list of things to do.
Start listening to a new podcast. I cycle between science and true crime. There are podcasts for EVERYTHING. (Fun fact: Did you know the LLSC has a podcast? Episodes include survivor stories and research updates.)
Get creative in whatever ways you like (painting, watercolour, drawing). I am not very talented in this area but even just trying to the best of my abilities made me feel good.
Repurpose clothes, try new ways to wear things.
Bake. This is another thing that I went crazy at. I love baking a lot. It’s more helpful when you have friends and family to share with… or not!
Self-Care. Paint your nails, do a facemask, colour your hair… just don’t try to give yourself bangs. If you’re going to be in your jammies all day, might as well pretend you’re at the spa.
Plan for the future. Thinking about how things are going to be after isolation, or even next week, can be hopeful but also scary. Focusing on the positives, making even small plans, and involving your friends and family are all helpful. I actually applied for university – something I was almost sure I was never going to do – while finishing up chemo. It gave me something to do and look forward to, and now I have one semester left and will soon be a registered dietitian!