The bubble

Recently, I’ve constantly thought about control. It’s an illusion. We have absolutely none. My son died and taught me that. My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia and reminded me. COVID19 shuts down the world, and I scream “OK I GET IT, UNIVERSE! NO CONTROL!”

Most of the time, I am able to hold the knowledge of Hazel’s illness within a bubble in my mind. I know the bubble is there, and I can see the leukemia inside it, lazily rotating around, mocking me, but it’s contained. I go about my day.

Sometimes though, the bubble bursts. This happens mostly at night, when I’m trying to sleep. I remember that the 95% survival rate sounds amazing until you realize that still means 1 in 20 die. I envision, against my deepest desire not to, what her death and funeral will be like. Chills race from head to toe and I shudder. Sometimes, a tiny mewl escapes from my mouth.

I. cannot. do. this. again.

Those who don’t understand the COVID epidemic miss what I fear most. Yes, I don’t want her to get COVID. But far more worrisome to me is the shortage of medical care. It’s already happening. Hospitals are out of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is imperative for administering chemotherapy. It protects Hazel’s caregivers, as well as her. Blood is in critically short supply. Leukemia patients often need red blood cell and platelet transfusions. Hazel has been lucky so far, but she has a long way to go in her treatment. There are very real concerns for drug shortages. These happen all the time, even when there isn’t a worldwide pandemic.

Shortly before Hazel was diagnosed, there was a vincristine shortage. Vincristine is a critical piece of her chemotherapy. The oncologist told me when that happened, the adult oncology department shunted their vincristine to pediatrics and the adults went without. There was enough here to treat the pediatrics, but this wasn’t the case the world over.

COVID19 will affect Hazel’s ability to get treatment, as it continues to worsen.

But my worries are not only selfish ones. Yes, she is my biggest worry right now, and I am terrified, but I am also worried about my friends and family. So many people are losing work. My veterinary colleagues struggle with whether to remain open and provide critical medical care to pets or close their doors to protect their staff. There are so many questions to which we don’t have the answers.

Every day, I wake up, and the bubble is fuller. Leukemia is in there. James too. COVID19. The economy. It’s only a small bubble. It can only hold so much, and I’m afraid that protective bubble is ready to rupture.

What can we do? We can stay home. And do our best to protect and help our friends and family in any way we can.


Published by Catherine Ashe

I am a mother to four children, one gone before me. I write to release the pain.

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