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Coping with COVID-19 News When You Have a Pre-existing Condition

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — March 24, 2020 — 4 min read
By the time you read this, I hope things have gotten better. I’m living on the edge right now – the edge of sanity, the edge of normalcy, the edge of fear. Teetering. About to go over. Why? I have a pre-existing health condition that puts me in the high risk category for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

My illness is physical, but is quickly becoming a mental health crisis under these difficult and uncertain times. And I’m not the only one in my family like this.

I’m worried about myself, sure, but I’m also worried about my mother who is 70 and in the middle rounds of six months of cancer treatments. I’m worried about my brother who has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 10 and is now an Emergency Room doctor in Texas, putting his life at risk on the front lines of our health care system.

I’m worried about my husband and children who have all struggled with terrible asthma and allergies. Are they in more danger? Or am I with my compromised immune system and the multiple immunosuppressive medications I take to keep it at bay?

I’m worried about my 97-year-old grandmother who is stuck alone in a nursing home in upstate New York, wondering what happened to her many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who suddenly stopped visiting.

I’m worried about you, too. I work for Cardinal Innovations’ communications team. We’re all worried about you and how you are doing with all of this scary news and change.

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. All I can tell you is what my family has been doing to ease our anxiety:
  • Research. My mom and I read EVERYTHING we can to learn what questions to ask our doctors.
  • Ask. I ask my doctors including my brother for their advice – Should I get my regular infusion? Should I stop this medicine? Can I leave the house? Should my mom stop her chemotherapy? Can we break the seal between households if none of us mingles outside of those households?
  • Group text. We have created a family group text so those not on social media have support, too. We are scattered across the country from North Carolina to California. Already, a few chats have released some of the tension.
  • Family video meet ups. We are still working on this one. We need to be able to lean on each other right now. Support is key!
  • Exercise. My 12 year old is going to school digitally. I’m working from home. We get stressed. So, we’ve started walking each day when we’re done with our work. It has really helped us! And we’ll keep doing it long after this pandemic is over, I hope.
  • Turn off the news. The news is, frankly, a lot right now. (And this is coming from a former journalist.) Give yourself a break when you can feel the stress bubbling up. Stay informed, but set limits to prevent it from overwhelming you.
  • Take a social media break. This is just as important as turning off the news because we hear it there, too. Just turn off the technology and meditate, walk, watch a show.
  • Laugh. We try to joke about the dark stuff. That’s my family for you. We love a good laugh and it helps us to cope. We aren’t watching any apocalyptic TV anymore. It’s all comedy all the time now when we’re not working.
My dad always says, “Don’t worry until it’s time to worry. Make a plan, work the plan, but don’t worry.” So, that’s what I’m trying to do.

During uncertain times, I love watching the 1995 movie “Apollo 13,” which stars Tom Hanks and tells the harrowing true story of the Apollo 13 mission. It’s about three astronauts stuck in a spaceship on the dark side of the moon, trying to figure out how to get home. They remain calm. They work the problem. And, eventually, they make it back to normal, everyday life.

About the Author:
Karen Cimino is a former journalist. She has lived with an autoimmune disease for 12 years, making her high risk during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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