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Guest Perspectives: Reflections on Life with Cancer During COVID-19

September 16, 2020

Editor’s note: We invited uterine cancer patient Beth Wesley, from Austin, to share her perspective on living with cancer before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Humans, like many other species, are social by nature. I’ve always enjoyed being around people, and before COVID-19, I participated in many social gatherings as a cancer patient.

Curiosity about human behavior, a passion for life in its many forms, and growing things propelled me into 35 years of loving, laughing, and teaching children of all ages and abilities. Along the way, I developed a love of writing poetry, but my greatest joy has been as mother to two lively daughters. After retiring in 2007, I was nanny to my grandson, Luke, until he was school age. In 2013, on our adventure with Luke to the Grand Canyon, I experienced my first symptoms and later diagnosis of uterine cancer. Following treatment, I enjoyed six years of remission before my cancer returned in February 2019 and again in April 2020.

The Art of Falling and Getting Back Up

Prior to the pandemic, someone always came with me during my infusions, a grace never taken for granted. Not having my family with me during two recent emergency hospital stays was especially hard. While there, I reflected on the people passing away in hospitals with no loved ones present. Any treatment has days when social contact is necessarily limited. However, I miss regular potluck dinners with family, spiritual community events, yoga classes, going out with friends, and having others over for tea and chat time. People who are not fighting cancer are feeling many of the same losses.

However, some very grounding elements remain, due, in part, to the way I've learned to view adversity. Resiliency just doesn't happen, and you aren't born with it. I recently read an article that said, the art of falling and getting back up can develop with practice. When I was 7, I rode bareback up and down the Mississippi levee. Falling got easier with practice. I learned to anticipate a fall, plan the best way to roll, assess my condition afterward, and slowly get back up. These lessons helped me through adversities such as miscarriage, divorce, caring for ill and terminal family members, and living with cancer before and during the pandemic.

Finding Seeds of Possibilities

Acknowledgment of realities that impact my inner and outer worlds is the first step toward goal setting, planning for the best outcomes, acting, self-monitoring, and moving toward goals. Lack of in-person social contact has pressed me to tap into resources that were already present but shadowed by distractions, like entertainment, screen time, and online searches for the best cuisines.

Lack of in-person social contact has pressed me to tap into resources that were already present but shadowed by distractions, like entertainment, screen time, and online searches for the best cuisines."

Counseling has been important at critical times as an adult, but the foundation of my support as a cancer patient has been my gynecologic oncologist, Paul Loar, M.D., FACOG, and my care team at Texas Oncology–Austin North Suite 300. This exceptional doctor has given his heartfelt understanding, respect, and expertise throughout my cancer journey, adding a quality of life that allows me to celebrate and help lift up others.

An invisible enemy, COVID-19 has upended lives around the world and added a layer of social isolation for many cancer patients. Yet, it made me refocus, strengthened my resolve to maintain social relationships, virtually for now, and be disciplined about staying as healthy as possible. It enabled me to thrive through creativity, meditation, and gardening. It's an opportunity to nurture resilience by accepting “what is” and finding seeds of possibilities that are within plain sight.

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.