An Outlier with MS, Coronavirus Nears as I Self-isolate
“It’s the end of the world as we know it.” — R.E.M.
Welcome to the world of COVID-19. Coronaviruses aren’t new: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are both coronaviruses. But this uninvited guest, COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has arrived and changed our world. It has dramatically affected my life. News anchors echo rhetoric and reassurances. Do they know I can hear them assure the masses that only those of us in high-risk categories may die?
Out of an abundance of caution, my neurologist canceled my disease-modifying therapy. My already weakened immunity becomes further compromised with Rituxan (rituximab) due to B-cell depletion. This places me at a higher risk of acquiring coronavirus. Hence, I am to isolate myself at home and wait.
I recall watching this disease devastate the Wuhan province of China. I felt safe as the geographic chasm was huge. That false sense of security is gone. No longer is it “over there.” The chasm has closed. The coronavirus is here. And with it comes an ominous new reality. We are in a state of emergency where fear eclipses logic and hoarding replaces rationale.
As chaos ensues around me, I wait. Never has silence been so deafening. I pray for my husband who will be 70. I pray for my parents who are out of the country. I pray for my kids, colleagues, and friends, many of whom have underlying health issues. I pray for our nation and our world as a whole. I pray that unity overshadows division.
Our world is at war. Each of us, the outliers, are on the front lines. Outliers. We are different from the rest. We are extraordinarily unique. While we may possess physical vulnerability, we embody enviable strength. Our strength lies not in our physical aptitude but our ability to adapt. For we know change well and have come to expect it as the norm.
We do what we have to do without hesitation because that is how we survive. We give freely and without hesitation because nothing material matters as much as another moment. We love deeply and forgive quickly. We understand isolation as we have lived it many times over. In some infinitesimal way, we are the most adept of soldiers.
Perhaps that is our fortitude.
Our past experience leaves us with a unique level of preparedness. As much as the coronavirus frightens me, I am oddly calm. I have taken every measure I can to protect myself and my household. I hand my fear over and pray.
I urge you to take every precaution. Practice social distancing or, if you are high risk, isolation. Ask for help from those in your community. Stress exacerbates MS and this is a very stressful time. Reach out to family and friends to talk through your fears. Call your physician for guidance. Although it may feel otherwise, you are not alone. We are in this as a community. We will endure this as such. You have my prayers.
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