Covid restrictions lifted – but not for us

posted in: Cancer 0

COVID vaccines and being clinically vulnerable

We seem to be living in a weird half world, where we can’t fully engage with the world any more. So many people are not worried about COVID but Husband’s doctors are worried. We’ve been told very starkly that he is extremely vulnerable to COVID. The vaccine is only likely to give him limited protection, although they don’t yet have enough data to know for sure. Blood Cancer UK provides a useful overview of current research on Covid vaccines and blood cancer here.

The doctors have told Husband not to work if it means being around people outside our household. For now we’re avoiding busy spaces, busy times, limiting what we do and how we do it. We wear masks on the rare occasions when we visit close family and if at all possible we see them outdoors. We go into shops briefly and very occasionally when they’re quiet and we wear good masks. We can’t contemplate going to a restaurant or the cinema or using public transport.

No-one can tell Husband how effective the vaccine will be in protecting him (he had Pfizer, I had Astra Zeneca) since he has no spleen and he has blood cancer but they are agreed that Covid is very dangerous for him and that any protection is better than none. We were very excited to get vaccinated.

Yet we remain a bit nervous. We need to practice being around people, to start living life in the open world again but somehow without exposing ourselves to unnecessary COVID risk. We’ve worked so hard to avoid infection while he was recovering from the splenectomy, through two lots of chemo and over a year of shielding due to the pandemic. We don’t want to waste that.

We’re torn between being really happy to see that people are out and about enjoying themselves and nervous that they aren’t always keeping a safe distance. Some organisations suggest that the clinically vulnerable wear badges to ask people to keep a good distance but surely we’re not the only ones who really wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that! Husband isn’t too bothered if people know that he has cancer but he’s only told close friends and family. He’s chosen not to talk about it because he wants to just get on with his life. He doesn’t want to be labelled, for it to become an identity. When the cancer is in an active phase he gets on with following treatment plans, when it’s just lurking in the background he gets on with life and doesn’t think about it much.

The one time he feels vulnerable is when we come across people outdoors and they don’t give us room. We are so glad that so many people can enjoy their lives again but wish that they understood that so many of us can’t have those freedoms back yet. We may never get them back entirely. We’re happy to take all the precautions we can by way of masks, distancing and avoiding crowded spaces but we can’t keep ourselves and our loved ones safe on our own. We need other people to continue to social distance. It’s the kindest thing we can all do for each other – to keep our distance politely, cheerfully, without people having to give us their life’s medical history to justify the need.

We’re excited to see how many people have been vaccinated and grateful to see that deaths from COVID are lower than they were. We’ve been amazingly fortunate not to lose anyone to COVID but it looms large over so many lives as people mourn the loss of health with long COVID or life itself as loved ones die of COVID.

It’s wonderful to see people enjoying having their daily freedoms back but it’s particularly wonderful when they give us room as they pass. Perhaps they’re distancing for themselves, for us, just because we all benefit from it. It’s a lovely friendly gesture when someone moves away and waves or smiles as they pass. It really is possible to be social and keep a distance.

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