Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

An Odd Comparison Between Cancer And Covid19

Back from “stay-cation.”  Unable to go anywhere because for some reason, we are still dealing with Covid19, with no end in sight, I simply stepped away from my laptop and my smartphone to avoid any kind of headlines, fairly certain things were not going to be changing anytime soon.  Of course, without flipping my laptop open, that meant no writing.

One of the “prompts” that I had in my mind to write once I dusted off my keyboard, actually was an expansion of a topic that I wrote about some time ago, in reference to the belief at one time, that cancer was contagious.  As I often do, I am going to preface this post, that I do not want the post to reflect a political lean, and will do my best to keep it from going there.  Honestly, it may not be possible.  At the end, I think you will understand why.

Speaking only of myself, in 1988, I knew of no one who had survived except for two family members.  I knew of no one outside of my family, including friends and their families who may have had cancer.  Those battling cancer today may not understand this, because of having social media.

When the news broke at work that I was diagnosed with cancer, the immediate impression I felt from everyone, was that of impending death.  Everyone dies of cancer.  And now 50 people actually learned of their first known instance of someone with cancer, quite possibly.

From diagnosis to final treatment, I spent nearly eighteen months mostly isolated.  Sure, I went to work, but co-workers avoided me.  At home, I had no visitors.  For eighteen months.

Through my years of survivorship, I have learned a lot about cancer, and the many psychological effects over the decades, and in the past, even before my time.  It turns out, there was a lot more about cancer to learn besides the fact that not everyone dies from cancer.  One big myth that existed at least  up until my diagnosis, was that cancer was contagious.

That’s right, there was actually a belief that cancer was contagious, and that was without social media to spread that untruth.  But by the same token, social media was not there to correct it either.  It was one thing for those not in my family to be afraid of “catching cancer” from me, which cancer has the potential to be fatal, but this also occurred with some in my family as well, including my newlywed wife (#1).

She never talked about it, but I could sense it.  She was afraid that she could catch cancer from me.  But I could also tell, she was worried about being “poisoned” from my treatments, especially during any times of intimacy.

This is the way people thought back then.  A deadly disease, not contagious, caused people to avoid those who had it for their “safety.”

Now, here it comes.  The year 2020, over 30 years since my cancer, Covid19.  A deadly virus (approaching 180,000 deaths in the US as of this post), highly contagious.

Unlike my time back with cancer, where you were fortunate that cancer was ever spoken in your circles, today, odds are pretty good that nearly everyone knows of at least one person who has been diagnosed with Covid19, or worse, has died from Covid19.  Personally speaking, my statistics with knowledge of personal Covid19 cases is much lower than my world of cancer, but it has led me to go “hmmm” in deep thought.

With my cancer, not contagious, people avoided me.  They could not catch it from me, but they avoided me nonetheless.

With Covid19, highly contagious, we have two different types of thought, prevent or deny.  And this is where it gets confusing to me.  I am a big science and fact guy, because of my health history.  I have been through several other potential contagious health crisis, but none as severe as Covid19.  But we have the warnings and advice.  All we need to do is follow it.  That is the school of thought when it comes to prevent getting Covid19.

But what makes someone go to the extreme of not just denying the existence of Covid19, but to actually fight efforts to prevent or protect?

When we had a disease that was not contagious, but deadly, people acted.

When we have a disease that is contagious, and deadly, we have too many that either just do not care or deny.

I said I was not going to get political, and I have done my best to prevent that position, but it really is the only reasoning I can come up with.  Initially, when the news of Covid19 broke, it appeared an opportunity to criticize the president, which clearly his supporters objected to.  And to be fair, although I do not approve of the president, he did not cause the virus.  But that still should not be a reason for rational and intelligent human beings recognizing the severity and danger of the coming pandemic.

But as the pandemic got worse, and again, being fair, I myself expected more out of any president, in a response to preparations for the pandemic, which six months later we still do not have, the criticism, now deserved, has only entrenched the president’s supporters and their efforts to protect him, even if it means denying their own safety, or their respect for the safety of others.

There are so many shiny objects and conspiracy theories flying around now, making this even more of a dangerous time, because it now risks being able to bring an end to this pandemic.  We know the advice, and that is what it is, advice, what we can do voluntarily, but those who deny, see this advice as a “conformity” or “sacrifice of freedom and liberty.”  I can only imagine how it would have played out decades ago with cancer, when we were told to eat healthier to prevent cancer or quit smoking.

Like I said, not trying to be political about this.  Just from a psychological standpoint, trying to figure out how our thinking about a deadly virus, contagious or not, can have such a different and expected response.  It makes absolutely no sense to me, that dozens of people are willing to cram a music club or party, ignoring the recommendations, just to prove you can, and to prove others wrong.  I personally know of two people who ended up having to eat their words as they contracted the virus themselves.

The advice given will work.  We can function as a society.  The alternative, accepting a death toll as “it is what it is,” is not acceptable to me, anymore than someone dying from cancer.  It is not what it is, especially when it can be prevented.

I wish for everyone reading this, good health, stay healthy, stay smart.

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