If anybody reading this follows my Instagram, they’re probably relieved that I’ve finally stopped my incessant story updates asking for donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was participating in a fundraising competition to support a close friend of mine who spearheaded Andover’s contributions. She had also participated in the competition the year before, but I had not been as motivated to join her in a more involved role until early fall of 2019 when I learned my grandma had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
I’m no stranger to cancer. My great aunt died in the summer of 2018 due to pancreatic cancer, and a number of my family members have had run-ins with various benign cancers. However, this news shook me in a way the other news hadn’t due to its timing. The one-year anniversary of my great aunt’s death was in August, but the week before, my mom was placed in the intensive care unit due to complications from a botched surgery. The anniversary carried grief and memories of sterile hospitals and wires and tubes, and suddenly I was thrust back into that nightmare. And now, just as my mother was beginning to recover from her ordeal, Nana was diagnosed. I entered a state of detachedness; I made it through classes and interacted with friends, but felt lost. Floating.
I am happy to share that Nana is quite healthy right now and only has two rounds of chemo left before she enters remission. Non-Hodgkin’s never goes away, but my grandma is strong, stubborn, and warm. Her favorite color is red, she hates to smile in pictures yet loves to take some of her grandchildren and will take any opportunity to expound upon the infinite virtues of Publix’s Buy-One-Get-One coupons in the daily papers. Most of all, Nana is a fighter. I love her, so very much, and can’t wait until my parents feel safe enough to fly down to Florida so I can see her again, for they fear that we could contract the virus in such a crowded place and carry it to her.
I can’t wait until the airports are no longer flooded with the influx of Americans seeking refuge from the threat of virus exposure while crowded into long lines awaiting testing. I can’t wait until the grocery stores are fully stocked with the foods my Nana needs to keep her health intact between rounds of chemo, and when she can go to Publix without wondering if the onslaught of shoppers hoarding toilet paper will abate so that she can enter and make her purchases. I can’t wait until the outside world is no longer a threat to one of the strongest women I have ever known.
When I first learned about Nana’s cancer, I was shaken. Now, I never could have anticipated the mixed cocktail of joy at the good news from her doctors and impending dread that I now feel as I monitor the C.D.C. COVID-19 page. Please, exercise your civil responsibility and practice social distancing. Buy what you need and not what you perceive to be necessary in a state of panic. You may not feel the effects of the coronavirus, but my Nana will. Protect her for me.