Tag Archives: COVID19

“I’m Not An Exception”

My daughter turned 20 this weekend. For those of you who didn’t get the memo, birthdays are a big deal for the Wilkie/Robinson Clan. Handed down over the generations is an expectation that you deserve to celebrate, and be celebrated, on the day you were born ~ because the world is better for your presence.

This year because of the pandemic Megan is living at home. Two and a half hours away from her university campus ~ a campus that is barely (by the skin of her teeth BARELY) in another Province.

So as you can imagine 20th Birthday Plans have been in the works for a long time ~ especially because of the pandemic and not seeing everyone like usual. The party was planned (within the guidelines of 10 people) dinner reservations made, dresses tried on, drinks purchased, bags packed and surprise decorations apparently ready to be erected. Three nights and four days of being back together and celebrating. The group chat was blowing up with anticipation.

And then Thursday comes. At 4pm on Thursday we were having Megan’s Family Party before she left for Sackville. At 3:45 pm she gets a text that NB Zone 1 (which includes Sackville) is going to Orange Level. This means different things, but one thing it includes is no travel recommended in or out of the Zone.

Megan stoically smiles through the family party but it’s not until afterwards that we get a chance to talk about any of the developments.

The disappointment is so evident on her face ~ we talk about the horrible timing ~ about how she feeling ~ and about what decision she is going to make. She is, after all, 20 years old now.

We talk about how grey things are – how travel is not ‘restricted’ but also how NB is only allowed one other household bubble now. How we aren’t in lockdown, how difficult it is to make these decisions, and how in reality she could probably get away with it.

But the thing that stands out to me most about the conversation are six little words she says to me as she is sitting on the stairs looking at me through frustrated tears.

“But Mom, I’m not an exception”.

And that’s it. That’s the hardest thing for each of us to truly understand and put into action. It’s so easy to preach about following public health directives until a situation directly affects YOU and YOUR plans and YOUR loved ones ~ and when you are faced with decisions that aren’t breaking any ‘restrictions’ … just ‘recommendations’.

We could all talk ourselves into being the exception ~ how our one little action won’t make things worse. We are just one person. We just want to do this one little thing.

But THIS is where the rubber meets the road.

And my daughters’ words really brought that home for me.

“I’m not an exception.”

As much as I respect Premier McNeil and Dr Strang’s need to identify where community spread is coming from – and boy do I ever – I hope they also remember there ARE young people out there making decisions that are thoughtful, empathetic, responsible and community driven.

They are making these decisions with sacrifice ~ and I know people may roll their eyes at that word sacrifice ~ not hosting parties isn’t much of a sacrifice ~ but remember what it’s like to be young ~ really try and remember.

So you’re right Megan. You may not be the exception in this circumstance. But you coming to that conclusion and putting it into action (or actually inaction) by staying home this weekend, sure does make you “exceptional” in my book.

Interviewing Anger during a Pandemic

Anger what are you doing here? It’s not your turn. Fear was supposed to be next.


I skipped the line. 




Yes. Again! What are you going to do about it?!


Well I’m not sure it’s the time for you.


You’re wrong KA. It is the time for me. Now is the only time for me. If you wait it will be too late.


Sigh. You know what Anger? You really drive me up a wall sometimes. Let me check in with everyone else. Hang here a sec. 


Ok. For once they all agree, it is time for you. Let’s do it then. You’re up.


Actually, when I think about it it’s very predictable that you would cut the line. 


Ya. I’m like that. You never know where I’m going to pop up or when.


Tell me about it.


But Anger, I’d honestly argue that about any of you. Joy, Fear, Sadness – they are all around any corner – when we least expect them. But you certainly are the loudest vocally, I’ll give you that!


So. How are you doing today?


I’m mad! I’m mad I’m mad I’m mad.  No. Strike that. I’m pissed!


But Anger, be honest.  Don’t you kind of feel that’s your default? I mean really. You’re always mad about something.


Well sure – you have a point – but KA I really have something to say here.


Ok. And what is that Anger?


Well people don’t like to leave any space for me. They leave space for everyone else, but never me. A lot of people say I’m supposed to stay bottled up inside.


Well, I know it’s not healthy to stay bottled up, but a lot of the time you come out in unmitigated and unproductive ways that can be very hurtful.  That’s what happens when you explode all over everyone all the time.  And there are keys to that sentence anger – unmitigated, unproductive and all the time.  


What do you mean?


Well, I personally agree with you Anger, that much of the time people don’t leave any space for you.  You are a very polarizing and scary emotion.  But I also feel that much change in the world has come from a place of anger. Anger is a very strong emotion and sometimes a strong emotion is needed in order to make change. Anger can actually be a very intense motivator for change.



We would never be where we are with AIDS treatments had a small group of men not gotten a little bit angry and insisted their voices be heard. And this turned into a large group of many and changed everything.


A small group of workers became angry about their treatment and unions were born.


A small group of women became angry and a movement was born. 


A small group of educators voiced their anger at the system and education became better for it.


All of these things happened because people saw something happening in the world, got angry about it and change happened.  They weren’t afraid to express it and give voice to it and ensure they were heard.  BUT they also didn’t make it their default.  They used that anger to be heard and then moved forward with 100 other emotions built into their arsenal.  


Yes, yes, yes!  That’s what I’m trying to say!


I do know that Anger, but with you, to be honest, often it is the only emotion we see from you.  If you are nothing but angry all of the time how does anyone know when to sit up and really listen to you? It’s like the boy that cried wolf.




Well.  Let me give you an example that happened to me recently. I felt very strongly about something. Something that made me angry.  And I decided to express that anger publicly.  But the thing is – I feel people stood up and took notice from me when I did it, (more than from you), because it is a rare emotion for me to show. So, the decision to do it was based in something very strongly that I felt rather than a default emotion.


And how did that work for you? 


Well.  First, I would say that as a woman I’ve been conditioned not to be angry. Certainly not to express it or give it a voice.  People don’t like it when I show anger. When WE show anger. I really can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a conversation for another time but let me tell you it’s a big one.


And secondly, for me personally, people are used to me generally expressing one of two emotions. Gratitude or Joy. Karrie-Ann usually fits pretty neatly into a box people are very comfortable with and generally like.  


But this wasn’t something I was willing to keep in a box. I felt it was too important. I FEEL it’s too important. Over the course of two weeks I’ve chosen to have a voice in a conversation. Having a voice isn’t easy. Those voices I’ve shared publicly have had a wide range from empathy, humour, caring, gratitude, wisdom in experience and yes anger. I’m very ok with that. I have not been one thing and I am not one thing. I have felt that this is too important for one emotion. And it’s too big to not speak what I believe – and yes that sometimes means I speak with anger. And I know that makes many very uncomfortable. Most of the time its all the other emotions, but yes, I’m also ok with anger sometimes.


Whoa.  That’s a lot KA


I know right?  This whole thing is a lot.  It’s a lot of emotions to process and it can be really easy to push others aside. But we need all of you to get through this – we all have to work together and talk to each other.  And that includes you too Anger.


It does?


It does.


But ….




But if I see you are nothing but Angry all the time and not leaving space for everyone else … well … to be honest I won’t be listening to you very much.


Even if its always about anger towards Trump?


Even then Anger. Even then.


Musings of a Former Cancer Mom during the onset of a Pandemic.

For the past month and a half I have watched as the world reacted to the first far away, and now ever closer, reality of a new pandemic.

During that time I have been conscious of how I view and ultimately take action during these times is often very different than many around me.  For better or for worse it is.  And it always will be.  You don’t see it really.  Most of it is how I process and think about it.  But I am conscious it is different. And it’s different for the same reason any of our thought processes as people are different around any event.  Because of the experiences we have each personally been through.

For 3 years and a half years my son’s immune system was consciously and methodically torn down. 

For three months after that he was given a reprieve to start building it back up.

For five years after that we were bombarded with the reality of relapse because of a high risk prognosis, analyzing bloodwork and results from procedures.

In the middle of all of this I managed to raise a family, participate as fully as we could in life, travel, work, encourage a barrage of activities, friendships and experience endless “touch points” that at any moment could send us reeling back into illness because of exposure to a myriad of viruses if he happened to be neutropenic at the time.

So I bring with me a little experience and perspective on the subject.

No expertise.

But experience and perspective. 

And here is what I learned.

Small practices can become life saving habits.

I would never say I am thankful for cancer coming into our lives – especially the way that it did via my son as its host.  But I will say that I carry over many behaviours because of that diagnosis.  Behaviours that have become habits, that I still practice today, regardless if there is some scary pandemic out there, or just because it’s a regular old Tuesday. 

For instance it’s still rare for me to touch a door handle in a “common” spot or light switches with my fingers; I have been known to seek out and congratulate managers of establishments that have open lid garbage cans located near the bathroom door; I keep Purell in locations one would never think Purell would be; I use my knuckles so much I resemble a mother chimpanzee; and I don’t remember the last time I didn’t silently sing Happy Birthday in my head as I washed my hands.

I do these things because cancer or not, I believe they make a difference. I do them because we cannot argue they work. I do them because I am conscious that none of us ever know what status our immune system is currently in. 

Be uncompromising in the quality of what you allow yourself read and view.

I refuse to even begin reading an article related to any health topic until I know its source.  If it isn’t clear at the beginning, I will scroll to the very bottom and not read a word until I find it. 

I pay little attention to letters at the ends of names unless I can verify them and I don’t care if my very best friend was the one who posted it on social media. If it is intriguing and I’m still not satisfied I google the person and the source.

I do all of this before reading it.  I know this sounds insane.  But I have learned that finding out after the fact matters little – because that probably-false information is still rolling around in my head somewhere, influencing my thought patterns.  So I try to be uncompromising in what I choose to read or watch. (Regarding health information that is – trust me I’m still a sucker for a good pop culture piece about Jon Bon Jovi).

Do not panic.

Panic is so fueled by the media and outside forces. We know this.  But it is like gossip. It can be so easy for people to get caught up in.  Even when we know better. When we panic we tend to share that panic with the people we care about the very most and it builds on itself to a point where you can’t separate out any logic at all.

I do not have time for panic. Panic also means I have lost perspective and am not prepared.  (Why what a perfect segway Karrie-Ann ….)

Have perspective.

Perspective. Sheesh.  That isn’t always easy.  It isn’t always easy when we are already busy and tired and over extended.  To try to put perspective on something new and outside our control can seem daunting.  You can sometimes – almost – understand why people just “swipe left”, listen to Fox news and call it a day.  (Not – but you get the picture). 

Gaining perspective takes work. And time. The best that I can say is most simply this.  Take the time. Become educated on the topic. Gain perspective.  It will change as circumstances change.  But learn to be steadfast in making yourself listen to it.  Accept that it will be different than your neighbours.  It will be different because of your circumstances and beliefs. You will each make different decisions.  But at least those decisions will be based in something real, thoughtful and fact based.

Be prepared. And be prepared BEFORE you need to be prepared.

For me – in order to achieve perspective, and avoid panic, I need to – as those famous lines indicate – change the things I can.  Being prepared has everything to do with perspective.

To me it’s absolutely no different than having a storm tote in your basement. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst (within perspective).  So instead of assuming certain items would be available in stores when we need them, I choose to make sure we have what I feel to be essentials already in my home. Most of the time we already do, but I always re-assess early in these events. 

So in January I picked up a couple extra things.  But here is also where perspective comes in.  I picked up a FEW extra things after checking expiration dates of what I already had.  I prepared for a pandemic.  Not Armageddon. 

Your actions can affect others disproportionately.

During times like these it is vital, as human beings all together on this earth, to realize that YOUR actions may not affect YOU.  Your choice of not sneezing into your elbow may seem such a small choice for you. That action may never affect YOU or YOUR loved ones.  That is WONDERFUL.  Truly. What a beautiful luxury you may happen to feel. 

But as I sit next to you at the health clinic, that action can mean everything to my child and whether or not he is then later admitted to a hospital.  Literally.  Your action, or lack there of, CAN – without exaggeration – start someone else on the fight for their life.

There is no just.  There is everyone.  Period

Just because a pandemic targets those with weakened immune systems and/or the senior population, and just because you are lucky enough not to be within those audiences, doesn’t mean that the experiences of those in those populations, or their fear or reality, should ever be diminished. 

Don’t become someone who uses the word ‘just’.  Don’t ever say “The numbers aren’t that bad, this won’t affect many people …. just those with weakened immune systems.”  Don’t every say that or think that.  That person matters.  That person is someone’s mother, father, brother sister friend or child.  And someday that person could easily be you.

Say and do the things that matter. Now.

Don’t wait. Check in with your people.  Be thoughtful and purposeful about it. Do so without being driven by fear or irrationality.  But do it because sometimes these are moments where we should actually pause and be thankful for the life we have. Reach out to someone and tell them what they mean to you.

Why wouldn’t you? That’s kind of what life is all about. Be it a pandemic, or like I said earlier, just a regular old Tuesday.