How a cancer diagnosis & living through a pandemic are eerily similar

As COVID-19 cases erupted in China this year, NPR's Marc Silver had the same thought as he did about cancer hitting his family — it won't happen to us.

In an article published online, Mr. Silver, editor of NPR's Goats and Soda blog and author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) Through Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond, wrote about how the COVID-19 pandemic declaration reminded him of the year his wife was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

A nurse told the couple, "You aren't going to have the year you thought you'd have" — an edict that can be applied to the global population as it navigates the first pandemic in over 100 years.

Cancer interrupted Mr. Silver and his wife's life, just as the pandemic has interrupted the lives of millions across the globe. Additionally, there is the unpredictability of both diseases. Flexibility is key.

Elissa Bantug, a breast cancer survivor who counsels other breast cancer survivors at Johns Hopkins' Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, told Mr. Silver: "Type A people who need everything to be on schedule are the ones who struggle the most."

Mr. Silver wrote that he and his wife would sometimes break down and cry at the unfairness of their situation — which helped. They also focused on finding moments of fun and spells of relaxation, such as taking short hikes. This is what they are also doing now to deal with anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the pandemic, "We're not going to have the year we thought we'd have," Mr. Silver wrote.

"We are tired of lockdowns and restrictions. We want to reclaim our lives — to go to the office, eat out, attend a ballgame, hang out with friends," he wrote. "I understand all those instincts, but I am guided by that nurse's advice."



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