Everyone is affected by the pandemic in some way. We hear a lot in the media about the impact on education, the jobs at risk, the heroic efforts of key workers, and sadly the deaths as a result of the coronavirus. While these are essential topics of discussion, one continuous aspect of life that is currently overshadowed is the existence of other serious illnesses.
The last couple of months have been very challenging for me. Just as the second term was coming to an end, with the exciting prospect of returning home, I was hit with the saddening news that my mum had been diagnosed with cancer. Not only was I coming to terms with the shock of the news, but I had to also come to terms with how my life would change as a result of the worsening lockdown measures. The sudden combination of both was mentally overwhelming.
We had to re-evaluate plans to fit into the close proximity of our home
As a family, we were advised to avoid going out in order to do everything we could to prevent my mum from coming into contact with the virus, but being confined inside equally causes confined thoughts. We’re all worried about her and we can read that same feeling in each other’s body language and moods, which challenges our attempts to remain positive. By trying to maintain a routine and some normality, we not only help to stabilise our own wellbeing, but also my mum’s.
One of the immediate challenges I faced was adapting my daily university routines back at home with four other adults. Of course, the need to stay inside indefinitely until things get better made this process of adapting trickier. It gave us all a feeling of claustrophobia, both physically and mentally. Usually, we’d all be getting on with activities outside the house and going to different places, but we had to re-evaluate plans to fit into the close proximity of our home.
This inability to be in the same room as close family that live elsewhere is tough
Like all other students, I still have university assignments to complete, and some of my family have to work from home, so we’ve had to find temporary workstations. However, we’re fortunate enough to have a nice garden which is excellently maintained by my mum, and this gives me an area to zone out and read a book, listen to music, or do some exercise.
This inability to be in the same room as close family that live elsewhere is tough, especially when they want to check up on my mum’s health. As much as my sister wants to be here to complete our family of six, she can’t. At most, if she needs to bring something over, she has to maintain the two-metre distance and leave without a hug goodbye. As much as my girlfriend wants to support my wellbeing as she has done throughout our relationship, we’ve had to adapt virtually which just can’t substitute for actual interaction. Still, we’ve found ways around this using the power of technology by Facetiming, Zooming, and playing virtual games together.
It’s important to always try to live in the moment and pick out the positives
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is it’s okay to accept help from friends and family in times of need when you can’t be self-sufficient. It’s natural to want to prevent bothering anyone, but friends and family will want to support you. As a family, we’ve been overwhelmed with support and kindness; from lovely “care packages” through the post to people dropping round necessities or bringing round dinners, to thoughtful texts and phone calls to check up on us. Not to mention the selfless local volunteers who offer to collect shopping for us every single week.
As my mum always says, it’s important to always try to live in the moment and pick out the positives, even in challenging circumstances. One of the many things we enjoy doing as a family is watching old videotapes of when we were little. My dad spent hours and hours, year after year, capturing moments of joy throughout our childhoods. Having this additional time at home, my older brother was able to convert these tapes into a digital format which we could then watch on our TV. Every now and again we watch these clips together, allowing us time to reflect upon our journeys and provide nostalgic memories.
While we’re struggling coming to terms with the cancer diagnosis and looking after my mum, it’s been difficult to adapt to a new normal. I am very proud of how my family have adapted and learned to cope. Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been all cheerful and upbeat. All families are currently being pushed to limits of tolerance, no matter whether you consider your family to be blood relatives, partners, or close friends as all relationships can be strained. In times like these, you realise that these are people with whom you share the unbreakable bonds of life.