As Thanksgiving rolled into Christmas and then New Year and the omicron surge really took off in January, I began to realize that I have not had a vacation for over two years and that my travel agent was not yet ready to make bookings for 2022. The lack of vacation or even solid plans for one has heightened my awareness of what’s missing and the increasingly mind-numbing complexities of day-to-day life in this new COVID-19 world.
Clearly, we all want to get away to a place that is safe — one that provides the relaxation and rejuvenation we are seeking. As we ponder and plan that getaway, it is helpful to maximize reducing stress in our home environment.
A new book focuses on how to roll with the punches to be able to move forward — The Myth of Closure by Pauline Boss. Dr. Boss focuses on how to react to loss, which really is at the heart of what we are all experiencing every day. The tragic loss of loved ones or perhaps, the lack of social or work get-togethers, or the loss of financial security, in addition to lesser but still impactful losses (a vacation, in my case) — even the closure of your favorite restaurant or cinema or store can take an emotional toll and create stress.
Jane E. Brody, personal health writer for the New York Times, summarizes guidelines to build a type of situational resilience in her article, “How to Build Resilience in Hard Times.” To integrate Brody’s advice into our post-omicron surge world, I will simulate a vacation as I have in my past blog to provide the time and focus needed to move forward with enhanced personal resilience.
Actions to increase resilience
Take action to build new hopes for the future. We cannot turn back the clock. New ideas and connections can move us forward. For your myeloma or COVID-19 concerns, maybe you need a new myeloma treatment option (such as a new immune therapy) or access to a COVID-19 treatment (such as Paxlovid™). Seek out other patients for advice. Try to consult with an expert and make your needs clear.
Obviously, the IMF is always available to help. Perhaps we can find an expert willing to do virtual consults. Call 1-800-452 CURE (2873) or email the InfoLine at [email protected]. If you are fully vaccinated and boosted (and maybe have taken Evusheld™), be brave and if necessary, wear a high-quality mask and meet with people who can help, outdoors. Answers /solutions to your concerns may be simpler than you thought.
- Be clear and avoid hesitation
It is OK to make less-than-perfect decisions. “Hesitation puts life on hold,” says Dr. Boss in her book. Maybe you are concerned about the side effects of treatment. Often, the only way to find out is to try — start with a lower dose, if need be. My experience is that often, many possible side effects do not emerge, and a treatment can work well. But you will never know until you take that first step or move on to an alternative approach.
Right now, we are all faced with the task of rebuilding our lives. So much has changed (or is still changing) and we need to re-calculate for the future! This is where that virtual vacation comes in. It takes time to ponder and reflect on personal priorities which could include major life decisions, such as moving your home or making new investments for the future. The future may involve gaining new friends or working on new projects to resolve worries or problems which have emerged.
For this, you really do need a vacation! Faced with so many challenges — ranging from climate change (as you struggle through the latest storm or fire) to general political upheaval — it can be rewarding to work for a cause that resonates with you.
This is when the time to think and relax is so important. For me, taking time to listen to music and/or to read a book is precious and can help put things in perspective.
A recent book I read was amazing in that regard, The Bookseller of Florence by Ross King. Born in 1422, Vespasiano da Bisticci was the king of the world’s booksellers at a time when books were made by hand, as illuminated manuscripts. However, times were changing then. The Gutenberg Bible was printed using a printing press and books became available to common people rather than just the wealthy (the Medici family, for example).
It was a shift that was as dramatic as the shift from snail mail to email, and the dominance of electronic social media today. Situational resilience has always been a helpful tool in adapting to the new. Fortunately, Vespasiano was able to live a full, productive life before the printing press transformed the world of books forever.
Finding meaning in the myeloma world
As President Biden relaunches the cancer moonshot program, it is important to point out that the IMF launched its own moonshot for myeloma 10 years ago through the Black Swan Research Initiative®.
After a brainstorming meeting, plans were set to seek a cure for myeloma and to fulfill a key part of the IMF’s mission — to work towards prevention and a cure.
We have had so much success in our search, including the evolving outcomes of two CURE Trials: CESAR and ASCENT.
In October 2021, I had a podcast conversation with the first participant of the ASCENT trial, who was truly thrilled to have achieved an MRD negative status. A year after completing therapy, he is able to enjoy life and is now off all therapy.
The bottom line
Despite the pandemic and many other challenges, key research continues. For example, tremendous immune therapies are now reaching the marketplace. Amazing research of all types is forging ahead. On Christmas Day 2021, the James Webb space telescope was launched to investigate the beginning of our universe and the formation of planets. Good and important things are happening every single day, even though not all make it to the headline news.
So, let’s try to be resilient, roll with the punches, and create as much joy as possible in our day-to-day lives.