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7 Observations one year into the pandemic

Note: An audio of 7 Observations one year into the pandemic is available via my library.

Well, here we are. One year into this pandemic. You’re sick of it. I’m sick of it. The entire world is sick of it. It’s been dominating the news for months and months now. Our lives have been turned upside-down. Although, way more for some than for others.

Is the end finally in sight? (Let’s hope.)

Maybe you don’t want to read one more thing related to the pandemic. (Sorry) For sure, we all want our lives back. We all want to return to some sense of normalcy, but do we even remember what that was like? Not sure I do.

What will post-pandemic normal look like anyway?

Are hand-shaking days over for good? Will we return to attending concerts and sporting events in packed stadiums. Will we eat again in crowded restaurants? Will we be forever cautious about being close to others while we stand in the check-out line at the grocery store? Will sold-out movies and Broadway shows ever be a thing again? Are masks here to stay?

And, of course, some parts of that normal we should not be returning too. But that’s a different post.

For now…

Here are 7 observations at one year into the pandemic.

1. I am now fully vaccinated. Dear Hubby and I received our second doses a few days ago.

The facility where we got ours did not allow photography, so no photo of the actual inoculation. I did grab a sticker and a button and took a photo when I got home because yes, it felt that important to document.

Mostly, I feel lucky, grateful and oh-so relieved. I fully realize not everyone is vaccinated yet, and I feel some guilt about this.

7 observations one year into the #pandemic #vaccination #grief #loss #cancer

Serious questions have been raised about whose lives society values and whose seem more expendable. We all have differing priorities about this, but some of them should be the same, should they not?

For example, why weren’t Cancer Havers in active treatment under the age of 65 put at the front of the line, or at least closer to the front?

And I still say, if we cared so much about keeping schools open, why weren’t teachers at the front of the line from day one?

2. My life didn’t change all that much.

I live in a comfortable house. I work from said house. I don’t go out much anyway. Staying home hasn’t been hard for me. In fact, parts of ‘getting back out there’ I am not looking forward to.

Not seeing my kids, the rest of my family and especially Best Mother-in-law Ever was hard, but other than that, I’ve been fine stuck at home. Again, there is guilt. I know others have not been fine. I realize I live a privileged sort of life, and I try not to take this for granted.

My life was probably impacted most when surgery (elective, but necessary due to an implant rupture) was delayed.

You might want to read, When Surgery, Cancer Care, Emotions & COVID-19 Collide.

Surgery finally happened, and I am grateful for how that all turned out too.

3. I haven’t gotten that much done and this is okay!

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I’d hoped. I have not cleaned out my cupboards or rearranged my sock drawer. And believe me, they all need it. But I don’t give a shit.

I have not finished my next book, or even managed to read that many. I have not written extra blog posts or landed that big writing gig. I have not tried out a bunch of new recipes or learned how to bake bread. Or anything else, for that matter.

Again, guilt creeps in now and then, but not as often as it did in the beginning. Sometimes, getting through difficult times in one piece is enough. More than enough.

4. This idea of getting back to normal still feels a bit elusive.

I used to get annoyed with the “new normal” phrase that gets tossed around in Cancer Land. (Now, I just ignore it.) The notion is misleading if not downright deceiving. In Breast Cancer Land, it’s part of the Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale.

You get diagnosed. You get treatment. You finish said treatment. You move on. You find your new normal. You share the lessons you learned along the way because, of course, you morphed into a new and improved version of your former self. That’s it. Over and done.

Ahh. It all sounds so easy. So doable. If only… (Remember, metastatic breast cancer is not featured, often not even mentioned, in the Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale.)

5. I am grateful.

I’m grateful for science and scientists who made the vaccines happen. I’m grateful for all those who work in healthcare. I’m grateful to every worker who has helped in whatever capacity to keep things, to keep us, going. There are far too many to name. But I am grateful. I think we all are.

6. Grief and loss are out of the closet.

There have been Covid cases in my family, too, but thus far, there have been no deaths. 542,000+ families have not been as fortunate as mine. As I’ve written before, we cannot become numb to the staggering number of losses.

Perhaps society is now at least somewhat more grief literate, more compassionate, more willing to witness and to hold space alongside the grievers.

Perhaps our hearts are more open to all kinds of pain and all kinds of grief. After all, it’s not a competition. All of it matters.

7. We’ve been exposed.

Some of what has been exposed about us is good. But much that’s been revealed about us is not good at all. Clearly, there is much work to be done. The first step is recognizing that need.

A common thread throughout these 7 observations seems to be guilt.

It’s survivor guilt in yet another configuration or circumstance. I see it becoming yet another issue many of us will be dealing with in the months and years ahead.

Despite the adversities of the past year, I feel hopeful. My faith in our resiliency remains.

A pandemic is hard. Cancer is hard. Grief is hard. Many things in life are hard. Cancer or no cancer, pandemic or no pandemic, we are a resilient lot.

7 observations one year into the #pandemic #coronavirus #covid19 #wordsofwisdome #quotes
I shared this on Instagram at the beginning of the pandemic as it seemed so fitting. It still does.

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we can do hard. Sure, sometimes we don’t do it all that well. We falter. We fail. Repeatedly. But we keep going. We keep trying. And we keep at it for the long haul.

In the end, whether speaking about a pandemic, cancer, or anything that’s hard, perhaps this is what matters most. Perseverance.

So, those are some observations I’m making at one year into the pandemic.

Share one or two of yours with a comment below. I’d love to hear ’em.

You might want to read, The Striking Parallels Between the Cancer & Covid-19 Experiences & Why Thinking About Them Matters

What does getting back to normal mean to you?

Do you see yourself resuming activities as you used to or will you likely be more cautious, at least for a while?

What is one way your life has been impacted by the pandemic?

7 observations one year into the #pandemic #vaccination #grief #loss #cancer

Melanie Varey

Saturday 22nd of May 2021

I enjoyed reading this and reflecting on the past year. I feel so lucky to have my loved ones safe and well but I am apprehensive about rush to the return to ‘normal’ as some of normal I didn’t much like!

Jennifer Douglas

Sunday 28th of March 2021


Thank for sharing your observations from a year into the pandemic. I’m so glad you’re fully vaccinated! We are getting there.. I have no idea what our life will look like once we can begin to emerge from our homes and see family and friends again. I’ve been getting most things delivered, and I’m grateful for the privilege to stay home. This was not the year and a half I expected, but I’m grateful to have been able to connect online with you and so many others in the cancer blogging community.


Monday 29th of March 2021

Jennifer, Yes, getting vaccinated feels like a huge step. Hope you're able to get yours soon. Emerging is going to be a slow process. Some of us, me included, will be proceeding cautiously for quite some time yet. Like you, I'm grateful for the privilege of staying home. Grateful for connections made online as well. It's been good discovering your wonderful blog. Thank you for reading and taking time to comment.

Kristie Konsoer

Sunday 28th of March 2021

I am so glad you've been fully vaccinated. I am halfway there. The observation that I am starting to see and believe I'll see more of is a widening divide between those who received vaccines and those who chose not to, will keep pandemic life going longer than necessary. There still is difficult rod ahead.


Monday 29th of March 2021

Kristie, So glad to hear you're half way there! I am seeing that same divide, and it makes me sad and more than a little perplexed. It's a shame the pandemic somehow became politicized and unfortunately, the vaccine has as well to some extent. Hopefully, those who are opting out now will change their minds in the weeks and months ahead. Hoping the road ahead isn't too difficult. Thank you for reading and commenting too.

Lisa Valentine

Sunday 28th of March 2021

I appreciate each of your observations Nancy, and have to say several of mine are similar. I am now fully vaccinated too, and my husband got his first of two doses yesterday. There is relief, but that odd sense of guilt too. Though after being in an actual school building with hundreds of other masked people for most days of this school year, the relief outweighs the guilt. I have observed resilience on new levels. I knew of my own already, but learned it in new ways under new circumstances. I am impressed by the resilience of all of us. Just like with a cancer diagnosis, we don't know what we are capable of until faced with circumstances that show us our own grit. I must also add an observation regarding young people and resilience. Sadly, entitlement has been creeping in to our younger generation more and more in recent decades. The pandemic pulled that rug of entitlement right out from under some who now have lessons in loss, disappointment, patience and gratitude that they could not h ave gotten any other way. Thanks Nancy!


Monday 29th of March 2021

Lisa, I'm glad to hear you are fully vaccinated too. It is such a relief. I've come to more fully realize just how resilient most of us are. Of course, it's not like we have much of a choice sometimes. Thank you for taking time to share a couple of your observations too. Stay well.


Wednesday 24th of March 2021

You made me think today! I actually wrote something for each of your seven points. I'll share these. Getting back to normal: What is normal? I don’t think I ever really had a normal and now I have no idea what that is. Seems like things change so frequently here in Cancerland that there is NOT a normal. I ignore the Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale and as you note, I couldn’t be a member if I wanted to since I’m MBC. I would like to add a #8: Toughening up for Cancer may have made some of us tough and determined to stay well during Covid. I’ve read a few things that said cancer patients know how to take care of themselves during this time because it is essentially what we have been doing since we were diagnosed. Masks? I’ve been doing that since 2013 both on airplanes and in conferences. Ditto isolation. Is it easy? Hell, no. But I know how to do this. Now I wonder if we should keep some of it up? Like wearing masks during flu and cold season. How many got the flu? I haven’t had a cold since I can’t remember. Is it because of my meds, or is it safety precautions during this?


Thursday 25th of March 2021

Linda, Well, thinking is good, right? Yeah, all that new normal talk seems familiar. Such an elusive concept. I like your #8. I've heard quite a few Cancer Havers, especially metsters, mention that they "know how to do this" over the past year. My oncologist mentioned the low number of flu cases this winter due to masking. We also talked about how masks make a lot of sense in hospital and clinic settings and especially in cancer centers. I think masks will not be going away anytime soon. Thanks for reading and sharing some thoughts.

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