We have COVID. Or had COVID (we just ended our quarantine). Kurt tested positive first. We locked him in the basement; the kids left food and water outside his door, wearing two masks and gloves. I disinfected the entire house and sat outside in three pairs of long underwear, thinking. The virus we feared for ten months was suddenly in our home. As one friend put it, it was like being at the moment of impact in a slow-moving car crash. Now what?
The Settlers of Catan. That’s what. Upstairs, the kids and I played that board game for days. Below us, we could hear Kurt typing on his computer (he is a loud typer!), and practicing his electric guitar. Then suddenly we didn’t hear a thing. I texted him. “Are you ok?”
“Need more Tylenol.” He wrote back. He couldn’t get out of bed. His fever spiked. For two nights, I went bat sh*t with worry.
Turns out, Kurt had a painful sinus infection on top of COVID. With a round of antibiotics, he recovered quickly. He was among the privileged few. But there was a mental and emotional toll to being isolated in a dark room for ten days.
He told us later, “I prefer to be alone. But this was different. I could hear you guys but I couldn’t see you. It wasn’t being sick that was hard, it was being invisible. And having the world be invisible too. Mentally, I fell into a dark hole.”
Illness, in my experience, is always a separation. There is the pain of the sickness, and then there is the pain of disconnection from your body and from others. Everyone understands this now, during the pandemic.
The next time the kids and I went to get tested, we were positive. Now all of us had COVID. I was surprised that my first reaction was to hide and not to tell anyone. COVID shame is real. But I also didn’t want others to worry alongside me. How would my immune system, weakened from radiation and chemotherapy, handle this?
If illness is a separation, then the process of healing is about reuniting with what makes you whole. I needed to connect with Nature and with Kurt again. I needed to reconnect with my body as a healthy system instead of the diseased betrayer of my trust that first got cancer and now COVID.
I finally ignored the urges to hide and reached out for help. Soup and juice and puzzles showed up at our doorstep, reconnecting us to the kind world beyond our disinfected doorway. (Thank you!! @phyllisrogers @rachelleclements @debbiemcgrath @teresachapman)
Here’s what else I did that you might want to try: I chose to reunite with the 99% of my body that was healthy rather than the 1% that was sick. I loved up my immune system. No, really. I lay on the floor and thanked every tiny, mighty, fighting T-cell. I told my body that I loved it. I told my lungs what a good job they were doing. I even pictured the beautiful order of the planets and stars. I thought about how everything fit together and how I was a part of that order.
I also had my doctor on speed dial and took extreme amounts of Vitamin D, C and Zinc.
Cancer has prepared our family to handle scary uncertainties. Some things we’ve learned:
- Stay firmly in the moment and feel all the feels
- Do not indulge the anxious “what ifs”
- Be extra kind and gentle with one another
- Love up what works, what is good, and what is funny
Ultimately, we had mild cases with very few symptoms. We slept and slept (have you seen @napministry? Naps as soul care!) COVID finally gave up and went away. We don’t take our privilege for granted.
How we got COVID is unclear. The obvious reason is that we traveled when we should not have. But the timing and several negative tests long afterwards make it less obvious. The truth is, we don’t know. Like so much else about this disease, we may never fully understand. (And I still don’t understand how to play Catan.)
Today I went for a x-country ski in the park. I skied and thanked my lungs and the cold blue air after weeks of clouds. I mentally thanked all the cute people skiing around in circles for their company. I feel worn out from endless stress and sanitizing, but I also feel elated. I can trust my body. It hasn’t betrayed me all these years; it’s been saving my life.