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Cancer Recovery During a Pandemic

It’s been 18 months since I finished chemo for breast cancer, 15 months since I finished radiation at this writing, June 2020. My hair grew back a year ago. The tingling in my fingers is gone. I used to have heart flutters and some chest congestion; those symptoms have passed.  

I had a mammogram recently; it was good. No “signs of malignancy.” That’s how the official language goes. I wasn’t expecting anything bad, but you never know.

I saw my oncologist the following week. She felt my scar tissue. I have tenderness under my armpit where four lymph nodes were removed. She said it all felt fine. She also told me my “blood work was perfect.” That is very encouraging.

However, my BMI hovers between average and overweight; 24.8 some weeks, 25.2 on others. I can’t lose five pounds, I’ve been trying for five years. I know it’s not life and death, but it sure means something to me. Less belly fat, more control of my life?Perhaps. A sign that middle age is not getting to me? Maybe. A sign that having cancer has not rearranged my motivation to be a bit slimmer?

I could move more, eat less. I am trying. It’s so hard with the COVID-19 pandemic that stopped our lives for months in Chicago, and even now, as numbers start to lessen, we must still practice social distancing and continue our super cleanliness routines.

Then, the tragedy of George Floyd’s death brought protests that crippled our city again, and for us cancer survivors who are the “at risk” population, brought yet another new set of challenges for self-care and survival.   

I don’t have a car. Is it safe to take a bus or a taxi? Even with a mask and gloves, I worry. I walk to the stores; I try to go during senior hours. After the protests, many stores were/are boarded up and have reduced hours. For a cancer survivor, this is a bit stressful. Where to go, what to do and how to do it- safely. This doesn’t consume my thinking, but it sure is part of my daily life planning.

I am so happy and grateful my cancer hasn’t returned; but I have to admit I am more worried about not getting sick from the COVID-19 virus. I take my temperature every morning. I have never cleaned so much in my life. I will get through this, as we all will. I see a rise in anxiety in my friends. If cancer is an inflammation of the body, we must be vigilant and so careful not to develop an inflammation of the mind.

I will try and remain positive, I will smile as much as before or more, I will try and do one joyous, outrageous activity every day, even if it’s only in my imagination.

Cancer Recovery During a Pandemic

Felicia Carparelli

Felicia Carparelli is a retired teacher and breast cancer survivor, trying to navigate life during COVID and protests in Chicago.

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APA Reference
Carparelli, F. (2020). Cancer Recovery During a Pandemic. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Jun 2020 (Originally: 14 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 13 Jun 2020
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