Cancer Diaries: Instead of Focusing on What We Lost During a Year in the Pandemic in Maryland, Ask What Have We Gained?

Heather Jauquet

(Photo Credit: Heather Jauquet; children going through the "Narnia" bushes in a Maryland Neighborhood)

If we sit to think about it, many of us can come up with a long stream of things that we have missed because of the pandemic. We can ruminate about our losses. We can think about what was taken from us: whether it be our ability to roam around without masks or without fear, or family members taken too soon by a deadly virus. We can think about the loss of ease to to hug a loved one or enjoy a dinner in a restuarant.

Do you remember where you were a year ago?

The pandemic came to Maryland just shy of a week ago today. Do you remember where you were a year ago? I do. I was in the beginning stages of a breast cancer diagnosis. As Governor Hogan made plans to shut down the state, I was planning for a procdure to insert a chemo port in my chest.

As I was sitting in recovery I overheard that hospitals across Maryland were postponing elective surgeries as they prepared for the pandemic.

I thought of all the losses my kids endured during the pandemic. The loss of attending school in-person, seeing friends, attending sports activities,and seeing family. I thought of how their childhoods would be tainted with memories of a sick mother going through cancer treatment while the world shut down.

But if I sit and think of only the things they missed, then I do not see the resilience my children have gained; I don’t appreciate their strength in the middle of a crisis personal and worldwide.

If you only focused on the losses, what gains would you miss?

If I wallow in my guilt that my children had front row seats to my illness, I would miss the compassion they’ve accrued as they learn to provide comfort in the quiet moments. Over the last year they’ve learned to sit in the silence, keeping vigil as I lay sick in bed. They spent hours sitting quietly reading, drawing, or creating small art projects to give me when I awoke. If I didn’t pause to appreciate that time together, it would slip by unnoticed in the silence of their fear.

As my children gave up playdates and bike rides, they discovered sibling companionship and friendship through their walks through the neighborhood. They found adventure in the Narnia bushes at the end of the neighborhood. They learned to lean on one another.

My daughter, the mother hen of the brood, has taken on the mantle of second mother, herding her siblings into her room; giving them a safe space to read, play games, to color, or draw. They didn’t do a lot of talking in those early days. It was a lot of contemplation, worry, looking for distraction. But during that time, they forged a friendship with one another. Even though they spent a lot of time together as a quad, they also paired up: the bigs and the littles.

You know what I don’t miss? The busy schedules that took us all over Montgomery County; the time filled up with art classes, sports practices and meets, extra classes, and Saturdays so busy that all we wanted to do after Mass on Sunday was to watch The Profit and rest on the couch.

When we lost all sense of time, it was filled with family movie nights. My children watched E.T. for the first time and realized why flying on Elliot’s bike at Universal Studios was a childhood dream come true for me.

Bedtimes have gone out the window and replaced with a late night series just with the big kids as the little kids listened to audiobooks at bedtime.

Sunday naps were replaced with board games and desserts.

At one point the only family meals we had were weekend dinners and Sunday brunch. But in a pandemic, most meals are family meals as the kids gather at the kitchen table at lunch time telling me about their classes. Dinner time conversation revolves around books we are reading, things they have learned in virtual school, and questions about what the future holds.

Living our days in a pandemic

Life in a pandemic has slowly lead away from managing our time to living our days. It’s not perfect. It’s sometimes lonely as we miss our family and friends.

A year ago, I wondered what my children will remember. Now that we have been through the hardest parts, I hope they will remember the ice cream walks around the neighborhood, counting turtles at the pond, Mass in our living room surrounded by our newly acquired pets, a vacation at an empty beach during the school year, an appreciation for one another, and that when our world turned upside down and we were in a prison made of a pandemic and locked by cancer, that there is something to be said to a life lived more slowly so that we could soak up the time with one another.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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