I know we are all afraid. In fact, the fear of infection is constantly with me these days. I try to let go of the anxiety, while at the same time remembering to wash my hands often, use hand sanitizer very often, wear a mask and gloves outside, and have anyone who comes over put on a mask and gloves before they enter the house.
I do not go to grocery stores, to church, to restaurants, to work, or to any place where people congregate.
All this, because last summer I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Just like that, one day, a doctor said, “I’m so sorry, but your bloodwork shows definite leukemia. You can’t go to work right now. I’ve made you a 12:30 appointment at Dana-Farber.” By that afternoon, I’d been admitted, and the long weeks and months of chemo and other treatments had begun.
In the fall, I had a stem-cell transplant. I was lucky: my brother was a perfect match. It takes a year for the new immune system to wake up and start working reliably at about 80% effectiveness, and two years for it to get up to normal strength.
During this first year, it’s all about patience and precautions. As I gain strength and feel more like myself, the doctors still insist on the restrictions so that I don’t get an infection. If I do, it will mean immediate hospitalization, because my immune system cannot do the fighting on its own.
Those face masks, gloves, and other supplies? They’re life and death for me, and for many other people living in recovery from various diseases.
But when I tried to get more masks a few weeks ago, Amazon told me, “this item is out of stock, and we don’t know when or if it will be back.” Same at the local pharmacies.
I have one box left, and my nurse has told me to reuse each mask as many times as I can, until it gets frayed and obviously worn out. When I asked for some extra at the hospital at my last check-up, they were able to spare two.
I understand you are scared, but this is my plea: if you don’t need masks or surgical gloves, please don’t buy them (or excess hand sanitizer, or all the available disinfectant wipes, ). And if you have bought this stuff, ask around in your networks to find out if there are people who really need them, and consider offering your extras. We are all in this together.