These are indeed uncharted waters. There is the obvious risk of ventilators and death with everyone we encounter a possible unwitting carrier of the virus. For those of us who are both older and immunocompromised, there is a psychological element to all this that is underestimated.
To live with the idea that death via COVID is lurking in every foray into a grocery store or every visit to the dentist is a psychologically challenging way to live. For CLLers it is a double whammy as we never know when our CLL might roar into an active hot mess, and we have the COVID threat always lurking.
Let’s add another challenge to our already burdensome load. Most CLLers are up in years and so being isolated from family and friends comes at a time when our quality years left are limited. While some of us might be in our forties or even younger, most of us are older and these years are especially precious. To lose a few is a huge loss. Grandchildren are growing without us. Friends, weddings, funerals, bar mitzvahs, all forgone for isolation.
As Dr. Koffman has said the time is near when we each have to face the risk of COVID versus quality-of-life issues, Nothing Is Perfect. How much risk is reasonable? When is taking a risk reckless? What is the cost of isolation from family and friends? For those of us living alone, the crush of isolation is perhaps magnified as there is no one to laugh with, eat with, lean on.
I want to get dressed up and eat in a fancy restaurant! Heck, I’ll settle for a great hamburger at a local joint. I want to fly to Toronto, Canada, and see my new granddaughter. I want to go to brunch with my besties and talk girl stuff. I want to drink champagne at weddings. I even want to attend funerals to say goodbye to those I have loved…
For me, I need to begin to venture out and take those risks, so life does not pass me by. I am seventy-one and these are precious years to be spent loving others and not holed up in my home year after year. I am boosted, Evusheld-ed, have my N95s at the ready!
Here’s good luck to all of us as we navigate the fears, hopes, and dreams we have yet to manifest!
Nancy O’Brien Simpson is a psychotherapist and a writer. Her career focused on forensic psychology. She ran a program using cognitive behavioral therapy in the criminal justice system working in a prison with male felons. She currently writes on the psychology of current events for an international news organization. Ms. Simpson is a facilitator for our CLL support group in Cincinnati, Ohio.