5th May 2020

Janette’s self isolation story

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Like many people at the start of the year, Janette had a respiratory infection and experienced a brief glimpse into what isolation could be like. Here’s how she is coping with the current situation:

“When I was hospitalised last January I would never have thought this might be a sign of how life would be in 2020!

“I was hospitalised in January 2020 after another suspected respiratory infection; it turned out to be a dangerous respiratory virus when swabbed for ‘flu on admission. Medics and visitors had to gown up, wear gloves and a mask when they came into my isolation side room or took me for imaging.

It was frightening. I am quite strong mentally but found a week in that situation really disorientating . However, I guess it helped me adjust to the current situation as I am feeling surprisingly calm at the moment.

I think part of the reason for this is, in some part, I am limiting my exposure to the news. I tune in when I wake up, then at 10pm. That’s it. I don’t see the benefit of watching 24/7 when channels are filling airtime with opinion, speculation and blame. It isn’t helpful and often lacks evidence or context.

The other main difference is that I’m in my home with access to so many distractions.

I’m fortunate that I never struggle to keep busy. I’m working from home and have shelves full of books waiting to be read. I have various magazine subscriptions; May editions have been delivered but I’m still only on November so, depending on how long lockdown goes on, I might actually catch up! It is quite interesting reading magazines out of season.

I’m enjoying having time to do things around the house. As the sun came out, I could see dust on things that before I previously wouldn’t have noticed. Last weekend, I gave my kitchen and bathroom a really deep thorough clean; I even cleaned bottles in the wine rack, so am now less taunted by the dust!

It’s also been great to have the time to cook more meals from scratch and, as a result, eating more nutritious meals at regular times than usual. Preparing food is also good for mental health.

One area I am struggling to adjust to is not being able to swim. I have swum about three or four times a week since 1990 – with only a short break prior to and after surgery. I wasn’t able to go in January due to the chest infection and had just returned to regular visits when lockdown happened. I’ve tried walking locally to the park and supermarket but it’s not satisfying exercise for me.

Like everyone, I’m finding it difficult not seeing my loved ones. My mum is 87 and has dementia. She doesn’t understand what is happening and is therefore ‘cross’ at us for not visiting. Meanwhile, my 90-year-old dad, who cares for her at home, is having no respite; Mum has gone to the hairdressers every week which gave him a break. This concerns me as I’m fearful that Dad, thinking he’s invincible rather than failing to realise how vulnerable they both are, will break the curfew and ‘just pop to the shops’

However technology can bridge the gap. Work is conducted even more online with virtual meetings meaning no travel. I’m phoning, emailing and texting family , friends and colleagues – speaking to some I’ve not seen in a while, at least twice a week. This all helps wellbeing.

Being practical, I have thought about what might happen if I caught the virus. My partner keeps insisting I write where all my paperwork relating to will and bank account is, as he fears for my safety. I’ve started sifting and shredding unnecessary outdated paperwork. However, he has diabetes and had just started serious dental work (teeth removed, gums cut and stitches that should have been removed weeks ago but dentist now closed), so from what I’ve read, he’s more at risk than me!

In recent years I have been hospitalised several times and always got through so I don’t think I’d fully appreciated how serious the situation was or that I‘m at higher risk. I’ve now realised that no matter how long ago my lung cancer surgery was and how fit I might feel, this is a very serious virus that can attack even fit people.

That realisation is scary, and occasionally affects my sleep. When this happens, I go downstairs so not to disturb my partner, sip a chamomile tea, sit and remind myself of helpful affirmations like: ‘All things must pass’, ‘You’ve got through worse than this’ and ‘You can get through this’.

I sincerely hope Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation gets through this too. There is no other single organisation with the resources or focus. It’s hugely respected by the lung cancer healthcare professional community and can provide patient and carer support to so many.

The crisis has shown just how important our lung health is and how frightening it can feel to have difficulty breathing. I hope that when all this is over, it will reduce the stigma associated with respiratory conditions like lung cancer, improve empathy and lead to more research. As awful as this situation is, let’s hope there is something positive can result from it.”