In the early months of the pandemic we often commented to each other, while watching David Muir report the day’s number of hospitalizations and deaths, how scary and difficult it would be to have cancer or another serious condition requiring hospitalization.
Then we found out. In early December a suspicious nodule was found on Jay’s lung.
This is the story of our experience so far, but it is also a letter of thanks for the support we’ve received from our readers and clients. And because we are Tech Over 60, this is also about how technology is helping us get through this horrible twofer – cancer during a deadly pandemic.
The suspicious nodule on Jay’s lung was found in December on a CT scan. We were stunned because this scan was supposed to be just a screening. From here on out we had to put our Covid fears (but not our safety practices) aside and accept the many upcoming appointments, tests and ultimately hospitalization for surgery that were quickly filling up our calendar. It helped, though not immediately, to hear that around the corner of cancer and Covid were promising vaccines. But those were still a few months away.
Pandemic-induced isolation meant that there were no forthcoming visits or hugs of support from our friends and loved ones. This was the second blow of cancer-during-Covid, because visits and hugs really matter. A lot. The holidays came and went as we tried to get our bearings, and with only Zoom get-togethers. We couldn’t see ourselves telling our family members about Jay’s diagnosis during our Christmas video visit, so we waited until the sun was beginning to set on New Year’s Day. Then we composed and sent out an email letting everyone know.
We knew we would have to rely even more on technology for communication, as the end of the pandemic was nowhere in sight. I remembered that years ago my dear cousin created a page on the Caring Bridge website to document her cancer journey. She would post journal updates for her friends and loved ones and we could reply with messages of support. Back then I often wondered whether all the online comments and messages would have that much value to her – could she really feel the well wishes and love we all felt for her and tried to communicate using our keyboards?
Now we know. We absolutely and deeply feel the love and support of our friends whenever they reply to an update we’ve posted on Caring Bridge. The heartwarming expressions of care and encouragement help temper the heartache of what we’re going through. Though we’ve been in the business for several years, the words “tech support” have taken on a whole new meaning for us.
We also decided to share Jay’s diagnosis in our Tech Over 60 email newsletter, to let our subscribers know about our modified schedule and availability as we take necessary time off. Almost immediately after we sent out the first announcement we began receiving messages of support and offers of assistance with meal prep, shopping errands, and whatever else we might need.
Some of these messages have come from folks we barely know. Some have had maybe one or two appointments with us over the last few years. A few came to one of our downtown classes. We have been very humbled – by the outpouring of support and good wishes, and by the opportunities for truly meaningful communications that modern technology affords us.
We do not pretend that electronic communication is a worthy substitute for human touch and in-person connection. Most definitely not. At the same time, we don’t know how we would be getting through this without it.
Jay had his surgery during the first week of February and was in the hospital for five days. Our iPhones became our lifeline. The hospital still does not allow visitors under any circumstances. This was the third big blow of having cancer during this pandemic, not being together for comfort and companionship during a stressful hospitalization. But each morning when the surgeon arrived for rounds, Jay would call me on his iPhone so that I could listen and participate in the conversation. It was invaluable.
We also used FaceTime to make video calls so we could see each other whenever the hospital’s cellular connection was strong enough. When it wasn’t, we texted each other. Constantly. Heart emojis and reminders of love and hope, it didn’t matter. Just sending those sometimes silly texts back and forth helped us feel more connected in real time during those five difficult days.
We still have a long road ahead. We are so glad and appreciative for the ways we now have at our disposal to communicate and express how we feel. Mostly we are grateful to our readers, students and clients for all the ways you are helping and supporting us as we navigate through this. Thank you all, thank you to the pioneers of modern technology, and thank you to our family and close friends for everything. Because of you, we have faith that we will soon be rounding a better and happier corner.
Stay safe out there.