Mortality reminders during COVID-19 crisis

mortality reminders in a pandemic

Last Updated on May 27, 2023 by Ellen

Health and safety are top of mind for everyone these days, including me. And, like many people, I’ve been given some harsh reminders on my mortality: hospitalization for alcoholism and double mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer are a couple of biggies that come to mind. I saw stars from a motor crash in Thailand and that blasted kidney stone back in San Diego! (I was on conference calls about a special show for work as I wore a catheter. It was hell.)

Last week, I watched my husband and Mom Diane, 81 years young, paddle back to shore on a kayak ride at sunset and I couldn’t help but think: wow – I hope none of us has any serious health issues in the next few months (or year?) as this pandemic plays out.

mortality reminders: 57-year-old man and his 81-year-old mother kayaking at sunset

And my next immediate thought: I can’t control it, so don’t worry about it.

Mortality reminders

COVID-19 deaths

I try not to worry about my parents and sister back in the USA. That’s tough, because from where I sit in the Philippines, it seems ‘home’ is a hot mess.

The Sunday front page of the New York Times is shocking. It’s atrocious nearly 100,000 Americans (as of this writing) are dead from COVID-19, and the ‘president’ plays golf.

Family illnesses

It is not the best time to need surgery, yet my mom went under a few days ago to have a few screws installed to fix her broken arm. I’m so thankful it wasn’t worse. Like a hip. I could not easily get home these days. Hopefully, her recovery is complete and not compromised

My poor aunt had back surgery a few weeks ago. She seems to be healing as expected.

My breast cancer prevention drug

I recently inquired about my breast cancer prevention medication at the local pharmacy and it appears there will be a few hoops to jump through in order to get the medication. No big deal. It will just take a little time and the pills will be yet another generic type I’ve never taken.

I buy and use whatever is available in the pharmacies of (mostly) developing nations we visit. Since August 2018, I’ve taken four different types of tamoxifen. I hate it. Every type has given me practically every side effect no one wants: hot flashes that disrupt life, mood swings, hair loss, weight gain, constipation, lately some joint pain, and other ill effects I won’t mention here.

mortality reminders: boxes of tamoxifen for cancer treatment and prevention

As dastardly as these side effects are, I haven’t gotten any blood clots — also a potential problem from tamoxifen. Would COVID-19 make tamoxifen clots more likely to happen? I wonder sometimes.

Despite lifestyle and family histories, I’m relatively low risk for recurrence because of my breast cancer was caught almost as early as it can be caught, and I had radical mastectomies. Therefore, I’ve struggled with whether or not to continue with taking 20mg of tamoxifen daily.

Ultimately, for now, I have decided to keep taking it because … well, because Tedly has asked me to and his request (so far) is stronger than my side effects, as miserable as they are. Also, the idea of a financial suck for cancer treatment is unappealing to say the least.

Mostly, I see this as a mortal issue. Kind of a ‘que sera, sera’ situation. Cancer could happen again. Or nothing could happen. Either way, my mortal self is not my soul. Whatever happens, happens. The future’s not mine to see. And the past is done. I hate living in the past.

I’m not saying I throw caution to the wind. I can do the footwork: continue to take tamoxifen, keep healthy habits, and hope for the best. But I cannot control what ultimately happens.

Family death

I had an alcoholic uncle who threw caution to the wind for many years. He didn’t want any help to stop drinking. He wanted to drink, every day, in any way he could. Today my mom told me he died.

Every memory I have of Uncle Tom involves alcohol. Either he was drinking it, or he stank of it. He was never able to find enough honesty to admit alcohol had him beat. No one could help him, because he never wanted to help himself.

The circumstances of his death are not clear, but I am going to guess alcohol was involved in some way, and probably a big way. He was a man who suffered terribly for many years. Now, he’s no longer suffering.

Mere mortals

Maybe my uncle’s death inspired me to write out some recent thoughts on mortality. Or maybe it’s the time I spend on the beach each day, combing for shells — something my grandmother loved before her death from pancreatic cancer when she was 57.

It could be that some of my friends are dying of cancer; or, that I wonder often what will happen if I stop taking tamoxifen — and what will happen if I continue to take it.

Maybe headlines from ‘home’ about the pandemic have me wondering how bad this will get for everyone. Or, perhaps living in a foreign country during a pandemic has me wondering what will happen next to me and Tedly and Mom Diane.

I guess all I really know is this: we are impermanent, and, whatever happens, happens.

Life is Now.

earth vagabonds

Thanks for reading, “Mortality reminders during COVID-19 crisis.”

Ellen was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer while traveling in Croatia. She had surgery in Croatia, recovered there with Tedly’s great help, and then Earth Vagabonds kept traveling – and they’ve been traveling ever since. Well, until the COVID-19 crisis…

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