“Enough is enough!” her Facebook post implored.
It was overturned by a mask-wearing friend on social media who had been triple-vaccinated. The boiling point: a TikTok of a woman crying because she was turned away from a doctor’s appointment as she had no childcare and her children had to accompany her.
My friend was moved by the woman. It’s hard enough to find childcare in “normal times,” but during a pandemic it’s next to impossible. There was much discussion. While some people argued that COVID-19 was an insufficient risk at this point to have such a blanket policy in place, others mocked those they believed had fallen for “white woman tears.” Then, perhaps unsurprisingly, the responses veered into a debate about masks.
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I couldn’t muster the motivation to weigh in. Was that the point? It was over for my friend. She has done all the right things, just like so many others. She wasn’t one of the jerks refusing to mask, or a conspiracy theorist who thought the vaccine was going to alter her DNA. She was exhausted.
We’re all exhaustedThat was what I thought. But I don’t have the option of throwing in the towel and just letting it ride. First, my two youngest children (age 2 and 3) are still too young for vaccination. My 2-year old has no recollection of any life prior to COVID-19. While her siblings were my shopping buddies at her age, getting cake pops at the Target Starbucks and enjoying weekly tumbling classes, she hasn’t seen much outside these walls, save the pediatrician’s office. My 4-year-old, who has now lived half her life in a pandemic, joyfully reminds me to “put on your mask-is” when she goes to her preschool, and each time I both smile and cry a little inside.
Then came the lump. After a series of scans and needle biopsies in December 2021 I discovered that my breasts needed to be removed. This meant that I needed to be COVID negative, and had three kids in different schools. And each day, emails came in reporting “a child in your student’s class has tested positive” and encouraging us to test for symptoms.
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My children attended asynchronous school for two weeks while I was at work. This allowed my mother to have a lumpectomy. They were not COVID positive so they could not access live virtual education. For my benefit, the same kids who went without parties and without going to the mall with friends, were stuck at home. This was actually lifesaving as my cancerous lump turned out to be.
I’ll survive. My cancer stage is 0 and it’s non-invasive. This cancer is not incurable and will require additional treatment. A friend with stage 4 cancer had to take a one-month break from chemotherapy after being tested COVID positive. Her health can’t afford it.
There are also the immunocompromised family members in my own and many others’ families. According to a Monmouth University poll from January, 70% of Americans believe we need to accept that “COVID is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.” But what does the “We’ve done enough and we’re moving on from COVID-19” crowd say to the toddler with Down syndrome, or the teenager who had a heart transplant as a baby? These people should not be abandoned like those who are letting COVID-19 take its course.
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It is all so clear to me. As I recovered from my lumpectomy, I found myself distractedly wondering why the Dowager Countess wasn’t wearing her mask as I binge-watched Downton Abbey. This pandemic has robbed us of so much – happy occasions like family reunions and weddings but also the ability to spend time with elderly loved ones, visit sick friends in the hospital, even say our final goodbyes at funerals. All of the masks should be torched in a ceremony outside, maybe in the firepit purchased in 2020. While we had enough energy to build a more welcoming home for our family, we will have to endure the months ahead. We thought it might be a good way to pass the time.
But some of us don’t have the luxury of declaring an end to our efforts. I don’t get to say enough is enough, because I have to protect my two youngest. Protecting myself is essential to receive the necessary treatment to prevent cancer. For those who live with immunocompromising conditions or care for those who do, there is no saying, “I did my time.”
For people who want to shut their eyes and let it all disappear, I’m here for you. I do, too. I do, more than anything. I just can’t. I hope you’ll try to stick it out with me a bit longer.