November 20, 2020
Uterine cancer survivor: Please wear a mask
BY Kirsten Arendes
The past few months have been a little hard for me. For one thing, there’s the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For another, I was diagnosed with clear cell endometrial carcinoma — a rare type of uterine cancer — in late July.
I don’t think I fully grasped what that combination would mean until I was about to start chemotherapy at MD Anderson The Woodlands.
My first infusion there was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 2. My younger daughter’s classes resumed on Thursday, Sept. 10. Her high school is doing block scheduling this year, which means she has to attend class in person every other day.
Once that happened, it occurred to me that I probably needed to start social distancing and wearing masks — even at home. This wasn’t anything my doctors recommended. But since cancer treatment can weaken the immune system — making me both more vulnerable to COVID-19 and more likely to suffer severe symptoms or complications if I should ever catch it — I wanted to be extra super cautious.
Practicing social distancing at home
The thought of staying physically separated from my children during cancer treatment was painful — and very hard to imagine. But at school, I knew Ella might be exposed to people who weren’t being as careful as we were, so staying away from her (and her older sister, Haley, when she comes home from college on visits) felt necessary.
In practice, that means my family doesn’t eat together. Most days, I stay in my bedroom, while my daughter studies at the kitchen table and my husband works remotely in his study. We all wear masks when we’re together, even inside our home. I haven’t hugged my daughter since Labor Day.
COVID-19 restrictions to remain, even after uterine cancer treatment is over
If all goes as planned, I should receive my last dose of chemotherapy right before Christmas. And I will be thrilled to be done with that chapter of my life.
But the restrictions that are helping me stay safe right now won’t end just because I’m finished with my uterine cancer treatment. I’ll still have to wash my hands, observe proper social distancing and wear a mask in public. And I’ll still feel more comfortable wearing a mask in my own home until I’m no longer at risk. When that might be, no one knows.
Please wear a mask for cancer patients like me
That’s why I’m asking everyone, as a personal favor to me and to every other cancer patient, to wear a mask every time you leave home. And talk to your kids about how important it is. Because I am not the only person who is sitting alone, getting chemotherapy, then going home to a family that I can’t comfortably get close to.
As of now, it’s only been a few months. But there will come a time when this gets really hard for my children. They will see me struggling, and I will not be able to hug or reassure them. I expect this to be particularly difficult over the holidays.
So, if anyone you know feels like they don’t need to wear a mask, or has made up some excuse so their kids don’t have to wear a mask at school, please, tell them about me and my situation — and ask them to reconsider.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
TopicsCOVID-19 Uterine Cancer
Wear a mask every time you leave home.