My mom died from pancreatic cancer three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a short three and a half years after my dad died from AML. My husband, two daughters, and I slipped into isolation and grief through all the COVID headlines, trying to keep our heads above water through a funeral, cleaning out her house, and figuring out where the line was on being safe and keeping sane.
Just when we thought things were getting better, my best friend received her second cancer diagnosis a decade after her first. I wanted to vomit. This was not happening. And worse, she and I were both unvaccinated, so there was no grand gesture of me swooping in to nervously clean her house or spoil her child or taking her to her first chemo — all things I would have happily done in a heartbeat… even though we live 2,100 miles apart. I felt like I was stuck in a riptide and there was no lifeguard in sight for an easy extraction.
Watching her relive chemo, getting a port, and having various doctors appointments became a reality check of my own. As if watching my parents die in my early thirties wasn’t enough, seeing a peer go through cancer a second time was like fate teasing me with, “You’re never safe”… while also sticking its tongue out at me. It sent me down several mental rabbit holes of “what ifs.” I replayed myself getting sick again in my head on repeat and what it would look like raising two young kids, while facing another cancer diagnosis.
Thankfully, I’ve played this game before and it meant I had some tools already in my back pocket to help manage this. My therapist, mindfulness exercises, and community support programs like at Cactus Cancer Society, and trying to remember to live in the freaking moment, are all very good starting points to staying healthy through any crisis, cancer, COVID, or otherwise.
Fast forward a bit to the start of this summer, the dust has settled a bit from losing my mom. Thankfully, my friend is NED (no evidence of disease). The current best wisdom I keep reminding myself of is from my daughter’s current favorite Disney/Pixar movie, Luca. Anytime the main character, Luca, doubts taking a chance because of his inner voice, he shouts, “Silenzio, Bruno!” We’ve adopted the mantra in our house.
When my mind starts to slip into that dark rabbit hole, it’s a great time to remind myself that I can practice a superhero pose with a strong, “Silenzio, Bruno!”