By Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches
I did not fight cancer the last 5 years only to die of the coronavirus!
I do not continue the fight against my familiar, solitary enemy only for the off-chance I’ll survive our new, common enemy.
I haven’t willingly and energetically tried treatment after treatment, only to hear that I’m still one of the vulnerable people because of a pre-existing condition.
I know my immune system is compromised; I don’t want to be reminded of it by a frightful threat.
I’ve had it all – bone marrow transplant, chemo-therapies and non-chemo-therapies, IVs and ports, infusions and transfusions, liquid medications and pills.
I can’t accept that all this was not really to help me survive cancer but instead to delay my demise from an airborne virus that gets the better of me.
I’ve dealt with the emotional challenge these past years of having my family dispersed throughout the country and world due to work and studies while limiting my own travel so as to be near my medical team.
I’m still determined to drive through these separations even during the time of coronavirus so that I don’t become a drag on their opportunities.
I’ve fortunately been able to work remotely for the last 5 years.
I can take what I’ve learned from this experience to help my colleagues adapt to the reality of working remotely that has been imposed on all of us by this disease.
I had to renew my faith when the cancer was first diagnosed, and I learned to live faithfully without fear for so long.
I still don’t dwell on the negative that can happen, but in truth dark nights of the soul still lurk in the shadows of self-isolation.
I’ve been looking forward to planting pots on our re-designed patio to make the spring and summer come alive with color and beauty.
I’m still going to plant those plants, to enjoy myself, and to give enjoyment to all those who walk by the patio on their lone treks through the neighborhood, and on their lone journeys through social distance and worry.
Today, on this spring day, big and soft snowflakes are coming down from a pale, gray sky, only to melt away when they hit the ground.
To me, they seem like a cleansing shower, meant to clear the air, if not of the virus, at least of the fear and uncertainty that come with it.
NB: In the time between the completion of this reflection and its publication, Dr. Kireopoulos was notified that the guidelines had changed and that all cancer patients were now to be tested. He got the test the following day, and the next day he got the results: negative. Grateful for this news, he nevertheless reminds everyone that the vigilance to stay healthy remains the same, as exposure to the disease can happen at any unguarded moment in the coming weeks.