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Shielding In England: Mary's Story

30th June 2020 Education


In my opinion, shielding guidelines have been woolly from day one. They were put in place to protect the vulnerable, but in many cases, shielding has caused anxiety, frustration and fear, and that’s mainly due to the confusion. It’s never really been clear who exactly should be classified as ‘vulnerable’ and to make matters worse, some of those who definitely fell into that category were never even sent a ‘shielding’ letter.
I’ve been shielding since the middle of March, and it’s been tough on so many levels. Despite my stage 4 cancer, I’m a personal trainer and Pilates instructor, and therefore have always been resilient and very active. I went from being busy working with clients to being totally incapacitated whilst suffering with 4 weeks of Covid symptoms. Shielding suddenly got a lot more challenging. Not only was I was worried about ending up in hospital on a ventilator, or passing the virus to my family, but then I had the added concern of my treatment being stopped due to the implicated health risk of having chemotherapy with viral symptoms. I recently found out that the cancer’s progressed. Could my treatment being suspended have caused this to happen? In any case, continuing with treatment would have been too dangerous for me. It was a lot to handle mentally, and I’ll admit that there were lots of anxiety fuelled tears. My family members had to also self-isolate, so it was difficult for all of us for different reasons.
I was originally advised to shield till the 30th June, but after 10 weeks of being virtually home bound, the government advised that we could leave our homes as long as we adhered to social distancing rules.
The irony is that I’ve been leaving the house to have blood tests and to receive chemotherapy since the middle of April. My oncologist appointments on the other hand have all been over the phone. It’s a bitter-sweet thing to be allowed out. I’m happy and relieved that the situation might be improving, but at the same time, I’m worried about contracting the virus again, having treatment halted again, and then there’s the possibility of a second wave. That would be devastating, especially for anyone who’s vulnerable.
When lockdown is officially over, I personally will be adhering to the original social distancing guidelines wherever possible. This will entail significant changes to my work situation. There’s still too much uncertainty and conflicting information about coronavirus. Where it originated from exactly, how it works, the lack of a tried and tested vaccine plus the general public’s complacency don’t give me much confidence.