Breast Cancer and the Coronavirus: Natalie R

Coping Through Crisis: Breast Cancer and the Coronavirus

Natalie R.

Photos by Rathkopf Photography

When the coronavirus pandemic reached NYC, Natalie was still in active treatment. While they had completed surgeries and imaging, they were still undergoing radiation, which became increasingly complicated.

Natalie’s radiation office imposed strict social distancing restrictions. Patients no longer waited inside the office. They had to wait outside until they were called in.

Natalie was able to drive to appointments and wait in the comfort of their own car. They also began wearing a loose-fitting shirt to avoid spending more time in the office changing and touching additional surfaces.

Recovery has been more difficult. Natalie is having a hard time recognizing how much of their fatigue is from radiation and recovery and what is to be expected from being quarantined at home. They are coming to terms with it though.

“Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s just OK to be tired right now.”

Going outside is integral to Natalie’s mental health throughout quarantine. It allows them to reclaim energy and peace. Natalie goes out for an hour or two every day, including long walks with their spouse and dog, but they keep strict social distancing.

“If you followed us on GPS it would look like we’re trying to stitch the two sides of the street together because we’re zigzagging and crossing the street every time it looks like somebody is going to be coming”

Like many young adults living with breast cancer throughout COVID-19, going outside is a process for Natalie and their spouse.

“We get hand sanitizer and we put our masks on. We put the leash on our dog after we get outside. We wipe our hands down with hand sanitizer as soon as we’re done opening all the doors to get out of our building.”

Natalie and their spouse have been leaning on their community to get through the coronavirus pandemic. They have teamed up with friends to order perishable items from a restaurant distribution company. They divide up the food and deliver to the community by dropping packages 6 feet away from each others’ homes.

In general, Natalie has been finding it difficult to focus.

“It’s been harder to think in general lately and stitch thoughts together and find the right words in the database of my faulty brain.”

This experience isn’t uncommon to many young adults with cancer, but when experiencing treatment during a global pandemic, coping with side effects, like chemo brain, only gets more difficult.

YSC and Rathkopf Photography have partnered for Mental Health Awareness Month to draw attention to the fear, anxiety, and isolation that COVID-19 triggers in young adults affected by breast cancer. Media often focuses on those in active treatment, but the consequences of cancer can last years after diagnosis. As the world grapples with its ‘new normal,’ these 5 survivors and thrivers navigate an already permanently altered life after cancer now compounded by COVID-19. Follow their stories all May.

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Coping Through Crisis: Breast Cancer and the Coronavirus

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