We all desire a magical touch, a mysterious click, or a chemistry connection. However you may choose to label these experiences, they make us feel like we matter, are understood, and have a place in this world. To be touched is important for everyone, but in particular for those of us who cannot actively keep up with the world due to health issues such as those connected to cancer and its treatments. We sometimes feel pushed to the outskirts and demarginalized, wondering how we can reclaim our spot in the race (perhaps with a bit of a recalibration to allow us to keep up)!
You may be excluded socially because of illness when you have:
- Impaired ability to sit, stand and/or walk around: This may hamper your ability to go to events that lack (comfortable) chairs, accessible entries or parking, or require you to walk long distances. Having to plan ahead to assure accessibility hinders spontaneous plans and can exhaust you before the event has even started.
- Impaired immune system: This can cause you to avoid large crowds and may make you feel vulnerable when you roam around in your local community, dampening your ability to enjoy yourself because you are always on the lookout for those who have obvious signs or symptoms of infection.
- Unpredictable bowel and bladder pattern: This requires you to adapt your intake of food and drink to minimize your risk of needing to urgently find a restroom. It can also draw uncomfortable attention to you when you need to use a non-hygienic bathroom.
- Fatigue: When you experience fatigue regularly, you need to preserve your energy for your work and family which makes it less appealing to leave the comfort of your home for a recreational or social event.
This is what I like about quarantine — everyone is limited in their freedom to go about their lives. It makes me feel like I am not an outcast anymore. Now, we are all being accommodated and I am not any different. Everything in my professional and personal life is accessible virtually. I hope it will stay like this when the pandemic subsides so that something good will come out of this stressful time in our history and so that those who are forced to stay at a physical distance can still stay in touch socially.
I have been able to take part in concerts, book clubs, meetings (locally, nationally, and internationally), which I wouldn’t have been able to do if we weren’t quarantined. It made me feel included. I did not feel like I had a target on me, drawing attention to myself with my inability to keep up. There’s been no need for me to awkwardly explain (or justify) myself or avoid invitations or opportunities altogether. Being able to keep up with those around me is very good for my mental health and leads to reduced physical strain.
I hope that when we come out of quarantine people will continue to think about how to make life virtually accessible for those of us with impairments. Of course, there are many benefits to an in-person meeting that can never be replaced by the cyber world, but as long as we find a happy medium and do not overshoot the pendulum from one extreme to the other, then we all at least have a choice between attending in person versus virtually. I hope that the last few months have empowered you to find a comfortable way to gently remind your healthy loved ones to continue to include you once life swings back towards the direction of “normal”.
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