October 21, 2023

Desperate Times; Desperate Measures

I felt like a total dork today. I sent the following email to my friends:

Hello friends,

I’ve got a favor to ask of anyone who I might be hanging out with this winter. Because of my cancer, my immune system is shoddy. Some winters are worse for me than others; the last two winters I did very well, but this one is already off to a bad start with a cobwebby feeling in my lungs and an off and on fever for the last month. So, I need to be on germ patrol. I’m sure I sound like an OCD freak, but when Shannon and I have taken these militant precautions in the past, it has made a huge difference in my quality of life. I’d be ever so grateful if you can help me out by doing the following:

1. If we have plans at my house, your house, or out in the world and you have an infection, cold or flu, feel one coming on, are recovering from one, or have spent time around kids with green snot flowing from their nose, please let me know. I might have to take a rain check.

2. When you come into our apartment, please head straight to our bathroom and wash your hands with hot soap and water. And if you cough or sneeze try to cover up with your forearm, not your hands. This greatly reduces germ contact in our home.

From cancerland,

Over and out


Desperate times, such as winter in Chicago, call for desperate measures, such as coming out of the closet as a germphobic, fascistic hand washer, but…

Do you ever feel excessively uncool or ridiculous when exposing your young adult cancer rituals to the world at large?
Do you barrel through, impervious to the difference between your life and those around you?
Or do you just stay quiet while your friends sneeze into their hands and then grab the pie server for another piece of pecan pie?

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  1. jessikalu skip to my lu Says:
    October 21st, 2008 at 9:37 PM

    I did the same thing at work - though I put signs up all around my office. I still ended up with the flu and in the hospital with a staph infection. When I came back I did my safety report on the flu and told them I didn’t appreciate spending New Years Eve in the hospital and don’t want to get sick again.
    My boss told the contractor, guests, and employees that my immune system was low and they need not come by if they were sick. He was totally supportive.
    We have to watch out for ourselves, others don’t realize how a simple cold or flu could land us into the hospital or out of commission for days, weeks, or worse.

  2. MLO Says:
    October 22nd, 2008 at 10:59 PM

    I don’t have cancer, I have severe allergies which means to survive I have to suppress my immune system from time to time. People often don’t take it seriously, and then are surprised when I end up with pneumonia or some such after explaining the spiral!

  3. Mars that rebel artist Says:
    October 24th, 2008 at 1:36 AM

    I’ve taught preschool for years, and we get TRAINED to do all that stuff — so I’m generally very proud to “catch” people (esp. my ex and my son) with “I think you forgot to wash your hands…” and “cover your mouth like this — it’s easy and keeps your hands clean.” I’m shameless. Two years ago, a summer cold went around. My ex- husband had a cough. My son sneezed. I got viral meningitus — I kid you not. Shoes off at the door, wash your hands, cover your sneezes — or go away!

  4. Mars that rebel artist Says:
    October 24th, 2008 at 11:23 PM

    Hey Kairol, thanks for stopping by my blog. Besides being a common cultural practice in several communities, leaving outside shoes at the door is also common practice among infant caregivers. Since shoes bring in outside dirt (which is a common source of lead exposure among other things) it helps keep it out of babies’ mouths if shoes don’t track it in. I know some people in the medical field who teach their whole families to change clothes as soon as they get home from school and work, to leave germs etc behind. Wish i could do laundry that often, but it’s a great idea.

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