When I was a kid, my dad had cancer. Leukemia. There were times when his white blood cell counts were so low that we had to wear a mask to go in his room, to protect him. He was so susceptible to anything, that we had to protect him, and doing so was as simple as putting on a mask. And we did it, because we loved him and wanted to protect him.

Later on, he had a bone marrow transplant, which wiped out his immune system completely to start new. This meant he was in a special room that circulated the air a specific way, to keep the air he was breathing cleaner. In order to go into this room, everyone had to cover their whole body. Mask, paper gown, booties, all of it. It never occurred to me to complain about how uncomfortable it was, or what a pain it was. I just did what would protect my dad. If I had gone into any other room on the bone marrow unit, I would have dressed the same. Whether I knew the person or not, because it would protect them.

My dad was lucky though, on the day he died, even though there was a fire in the the hospital, and we all had to be evacuated, he still got to die with all of his loved ones around him. A room packed full of his family. He heard us tell him we love him, he felt us holding his hand. People who die from covid don’t get that. They die while on FaceTime with their families. With only a nurse there. A kind stranger who is heartbroken but still a stranger.

Some people have never had to face how fragile health is, never tracked white blood counts, never learned the science behind them. The never watched doctors in action, explaining the how’s and why’s a certain treatment will work. As a kid, I ingested all of that. I would seek out more science to understand more. There was comfort in knowledge, in the scientific method. See I tried to pray before, when he got sick, but that failed me so I turned to what was solid. Science. This became useful later as I learned I would spend my life fighting my own health struggles.

Most people get sick, they go to the doctor, and then they get better. Then there are the rest of us. We don’t get better. We search for years for answers, for treatments, anything to not feel as bad as we do. We have fought to breathe, fought to walk, fought to get out of bed when our body tells us we can’t. If we are lucky, we have family who fights with us and sometimes for us, we have friends who are compassionate, helpful, and understanding.

I’m not writing all this to draw attention to my personal plight, but to show that many, MANY, people have similar stories. And I get that people need to go back to work, people need to feed their families and keep a roof over their head. But we need to be smart, go to work, order dinner and drinks, if you need to, but don’t throw a party, and don’t condemn others for not going out. And for God’s sake, wear a mask. When I do go out, I wear one, I’ve been conditioned from a young age to protect others who may be sick, as well as protect my own lungs because they need all the help they can get. Mostly though, I will stay home, not to “cower in fear” as some so eloquently put it, but to protect my self, my family, my friends, and anyone else who needs protecting.

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