This article was written by Rachele Chaar, a bone marrow transplant and Hodgkin lymphoma survivor.
Following the surge in COVID-19 cases, many provinces across Canada have declared a state emergency. In order to help contain the pandemic and flatten the curve, we’ve been asked to stay home as much as possible and only go out if necessary. For most of us who are used to living in a fast-paced environment, suddenly finding ourselves constrained to a box is nothing short of a nightmare.
Having had an autologous stem cell transplant (SCT) for my relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma, I know only too well that self-isolation is no easy feat. In order to reduce the risk of exposure to infections, which pose a danger to recovering SCT patients due to their low immunity, temporary self-isolation is a must. However, between the month-long hospital stay – longer in the case of complications – and the (up to) three-month self-isolation at home after discharge, mental health can take a hit.
I’d like to think that I’ve mastered the skill of staying sane during self-isolation and I’d like to share some of the things I did that helped me get through that period.
Colouring – For as long as I could, I spent every morning at the hospital colouring in my colouring books while listening to Frank Sinatra. No matter how anxious I felt, this was always a serene moment for me that was highly therapeutic.
Pick up a hobby – Whether it’s picking up a new hobby or an old one that was tossed aside due to time constraints, now is the perfect time to get on it. Pick up that guitar or book, or try painting, knitting, drawing, baking or cooking. If you don’t have any hobbies or don’t really know what you like, now’s the time to explore the myriad of options out there! I will personally use this time to pick up writing again.
Games – If you’re a video game fanatic like me but always felt too guilty to binge game, you now have the perfect excuse to do so. I highly recommend it for the anxious insomniacs, like myself. Video gaming really helped me through some rough nights during recovery. Alternatively, you could try playing board games online with friends.
Blogging – Start a blog! You could talk about how COVID-19 has impacted you or how you’re spending your time in quarantine. Or maybe you have specific interests that you’d like to share. I started my blog while going through my cancer treatment and it really helped me navigate through difficult emotions.
Communicate – Connecting with friends and family over the various mediums available to us can significantly reduce feelings of isolation. Just because we must implement physical distancing measures, that doesn’t mean we should stop communicating. Call that old friend whom you haven’t spoken to in a while!
Self-reflect - The best advice I received from a nurse on discharge was to use my “me” time in isolation to self-reflect and meditate. This was crucial for my mental recovery at the time. People nowadays are always rushing to get somewhere and have very little time to themselves. Having this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit pause and just look inwards is a blessing.
Like cancer, COVID-19 can be unpredictable and scary. While none of us could have ever imagined this new reality, now more than ever, I realize that we are stronger than we think. Those affected by blood cancers have a one up on the world right now. Why? Because we know what’s like to pull ourselves from the darkest of places and rise up to the challenge. Stay well and stay safe, my friends, because this too shall pass.
Do you or your loved one need support? It’s hard to navigate the unknown, but we’re here for you every step of the way. Our Community Engagement teams are available to take your calls.
Community Engagement Manager
Prairies & Northwest Territories
|(403) 263-5300 ext 5163|
|Quebec||(514) 875-1000 ext 1009|
|Atlantic Canada||(902) 422-5999 ext 7580|