Cancer, COVID, Change

It’s been many years since my husband was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. So many things have happened during that time, but the one constant is family and all the ties that bind us. When Dan was first diagnosed, we were pretty innocent about prostate cancer, treatments, life expectancy. We only knew the word cancer was bad.

Rallying together

What does the family do? We rally. We visit. We eat lots of Sunday meals together. We share and laugh.

The grandkids brought grandpa simple gifts: pieces of fruit, DVDs of old movies, a fishing magazine, lots of kisses. They knew something was up but didn’t understand. That’s good. They just kept loving him in their innocent childlike way, unfazed by his bald head, slow movements, yellowed skin. I’m so grateful for those visits and what they did for his spirit, and mine.

Then COVID came along

Move ahead many years, many meals, many visits later to the advent of COVID. Instant stop to our lives together as an in-person family unit. Schools were closed immediately. Parents were warned to not ask grandparents to help with childcare while they worked, because we were the most susceptible to the disease and death. Our kids took that to heart and did everything they could to keep us safe.

That meant no more family gatherings. No more meals. No visits. We were so grateful for Facetime, as that was our way of celebrating holidays and birthdays together. It was certainly not the same, but better than nothing.

Almost two years later a vaccine became available, a way to open our lives and homes again. Dan and I have been vaccinated and double boosted, and our kids and grandkids were all vaccinated. Life returned to normal, to a degree. We had family dinners, birthday parties, softball games, treasured times of just being together.

Changes to the family dynamic

But, two years of not getting together resulted in changes to our family dynamic. That’s a lot of time. Our three kids and their families have each become their own units, their own support systems; they’ve developed their own lifelines. I know we raised our kids to be independent, to be strong, to think for themselves. I think we’ve done that well – sometimes I think too well.

We don’t gather as we used to, as everyone is busy. We feel isolated and lonely to not be included, to not talk and laugh around the kitchen table as we used to. We’ve missed years of grandkids growing – they’re no longer interested in playing ball in the backyard, dressing up dolls, dancing with hula hoops, playing in the sprinkler. The times we do get together, they’re busy on their cell phones texting friends, sending pictures through Snapchat (foreign to me).

With increasing COVID cases, as of my writing this, I’m sure our family get-togethers may become even less frequent. Our daughter is fiercely battling breast cancer, and chemo has caused her to be more isolated due to her weakened immune system. We respect and honor the need to try and keep her safe, and that means not getting together as often, continuing to wear masks, staying away from crowds. This we do for her.

Moral of the story

I’m trying to think of a “moral of the story.” For me, I guess it would be to appreciate and enjoy all those times when the family can get together. Know that changes happen, that grandkids grow up, that the world and life are unpredictable, and things happen that can keep us apart.

But the ties that bind, the things that make us family – that never changes. We will always be there for each other, no matter what and in whatever form that takes.

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