Posts Tagged ‘Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia’

SD

We didn’t call it “Social Distancing”.  It wasn’t a darling phrase for the media, social or otherwise.  However the reality is that this “new” phenomenon is not so new.  It is rooted in another idea that is not so new “Social Anxiety”.  I have watched this bad boy literally destroy lives.  People who refused to leave the safety of home for years, or even the safety of a single room.  I am guessing that some with Social Anxiety are feeling quite justified right now.  The truth is that the only difference between Social Distancing and Social Anxiety are a few grains of truth.  Both are practiced in different intensities by different people for different reasons. They both separate us from the fellowship that is a hallmark of our faith.

Allana and I battled with those grains of truth, along with battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Social Distancing is not new to us.  In fact in the big scheme of things our current situation is easy going.  Rewind to 2013, Allana is undergoing chemotherapy, innocuously called Hyper CVAD…except for maybe the Hyper part. The grains of truth are rooted in the fact that this protocol all but destroys a person’s immune system.  This was followed by a Bone Marrow Transplant.  Radiation and even more devastating Chemotherapy did in fact destroy Allana’s immune system so it could be replaced.  Social Distancing became a way of life almost literally overnight.  January 3rd we are in the hospital for Allana’s fever and abdominal pain.  January 4th we are in a special ward with its own ventilation system and limited access.  The cancer had already started the damage that the Chemotherapy would finish.  Suddenly, someone, anyone could quite unintentionally kill Allana with a single bacteria or a misplaced virus.  Our introduction to Social Distancing had begun.  It would separate us from our church, ministry, friends and most difficult, our children and family.  A single blessing was our newborn Nisa.  She was only 19 days old when Allana was diagnosed.  I made two decisions. First, I would not be separated from Allana throughout this experience and Second, Nisa would be with her mother for as long as she possibly could.

Allana had little choice but to practice Social Distancing.  The cancer and chemo left her tired and in pain much of the time.  Carefully orchestrated moments with her children and carefully vetted friends and family were in some cases more than she could handle.  Even as I walked the hallways of the hospital, purchasing coffee or food or just walking with the baby while Allana slept, I was acutely aware of the threat that all those around me posed.  Laying in bed at night I would inventory how I felt…was my throat sore…was that a cough…was I getting sick?  Would I have to leave her?  Compulsive hand washing, masks and minimal movement became the routine.  I used hand sanitizer in and out of the room (conveniently placed on the wall just outside the door).

Things became more serious when she did contract an infection.  The uncontrollable fever and then the incoherent imaginings were the warning bells that signaled that something was wrong.  At one point through the night I thought we were going to lose her.  Being in the Blood Cancer ward of the Cleveland Clinic has its advantages and they were able to stabilize her. Fortunately other than the stories I tell, Allana has little memory of this episode and what she does remember consists mainly of the hallucinations and dreams that she experienced.  Social Distancing became social isolation.

As Allana recovered and the new Bone Marrow took hold, we began the long process of finding the new normal.  The new normal still included the fact that someone could quite unintentionally end Allana’s life.  Shortly after being released from the Clinic but  needing to remain in Cleveland, we tried to reestablish a norm, Sunday morning Church.  We picked a campus of a large AG church in Cleveland not far from where we were staying.  The pastor would be glad to know that his people were incredibly welcoming.  Unfortunately it was terribly terrifying.  I was unable to establish a perimeter (six feet or otherwise) around Allana.  One especially well meaning woman rushed up and gave her a big hug.  Social Distancing became Social Anxiety just that quickly.  While there were grains of truth in our Social Distancing there was a fundamental change in us.  That is the Social Anxiety part.  It honestly forever changed who we are and how we operate.  Fortunately God is good and there has been much recovery.  This recovery was a matter of years not days or weeks. It followed Allana’s physical recovery to some degree but the discomfort and avoidance of social situations have not evaporated as quickly as the grains of truth have faded in meaning.

All this is to say that Covid-19 and the introduction of a culture of Social Distancing has forever changed all of us.  The normal  expectations of health and safety are assaulted by every news article and political speech.  When the rules subside, the fear will still be there…especially for those who became desperately ill or had a loved one become desperately ill.  There are grains of truth in the distancing and in the fear.  However as those grains fade in importance we will as a people and most particularly as the people of God need to recognize the change, the impact on who we are and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading out of the wilderness.  We can be the pillar of fire and smoke that will lead others out of their wilderness.  It will be a time for the Church to step up and truly be the body of Christ led by the Holy Spirit and full of Healing.

“but for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”     Malachi 4:2

 

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