When the threat of Coronavirus became very real to the United States and it was clear that PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for healthcare workers would become nearly impossible to acquire, mine and many others’ first thought was: what can I do to help? It’s no secret to cancer survivors the length our healthcare experts go to to make sure we live. The N95 masks that are meant to be single use are now being used over and over again by workers that are coming in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. This is a very scary time made worse by this fact. One way I learned I could help was by making face masks that could cover the N95 masks, helping to extend their use. It’s by no means ideal, but is the current reality.
I played around with a couple patterns until I found one I liked, and ended up using this one. I still had some elastic left over from scrunchie making with my daughter from the previous summer, and plenty of fabric as well.
I joined a local Facebook community (RVA Masks 4 Health) whose primary mission is to make, donate, and distribute homemade masks to local hospitals and other essential workers in our area. I was gifted 10 more yards of elastic from this community and got to work making about 40 in total, until both my supplies AND sewing machine gave out. Working with my lymphedema therapist turned friend, Laurie Pearman, I was able to get enough donations that we could distribute 100 of them for her hospital system here in Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, the Facebook group continues to help each other in the sourcing and donation of materials to local crafters, and for those who can’t sew but wish to help, in delivering the masks to drop off locations. Hundreds of masks are being made daily by these home crafters. There are even members using 3D printers to make masks, face shields and doodads that will hold the elastic off of nurses ears so that it doesn’t break their skin after wearing them for long shifts.
It has been comforting to see so many people stand up to help during this crisis. At Cervivor, one of our mantras is #StrongerTogether, and this has been another instance of the truth in that statement. Of course, the best way to help is simply to stay at home if and when possible. I hope all of our Cervivor sisters are staying safe and healthy. You can always reach out to us through our I Am Cervivor Facebook group for our support.
Mary Baker is a three year survivor of stage 3B cervical cancer. She is an advocate for women’s health, a mom of two, and a proud Cervivor Ambassador and Cervivor School graduate.
We are still in the midst of a global pandemic that has disrupted our daily lives. As we settle into yet another “new normal’, I want to assure you that during this time our community is as resilient as ever. Our leadership is here to support you during this time of physical distancing. Our message to you has been and will continue to be “you are not alone”.
Our in-person events are on pause for an unforeseen time, but we are more committed than ever to continue sharing our award-winning content and creating special virtual events to keep us all connected and informed.
You’ll see more and more events that keep us connected while physically distancing. My dining room has become my virtual hub. It’s where I participate in countless Zoom calls, and also where I’ve been sharing meals with my family. Despite this global crisis, I try to find something to be grateful for in each day. Don’t get me wrong, it can be exceptionally hard, but if I look hard enough I find it. In the midst of all of this, I celebrated 19 years of cancer survivorship. I’m grateful for that. I don’t take it for granted at all. Cancer still exists even during a global crisis. That means my promise of making my survivorship count is still at the forefront of my daily work. Because we must still end cervical cancer.
During this time I want to hear from you. I want to know how you are coping with cancer and COVID-19. Let me know how we can support you. Let us know what type of virtual events you’d like to see from our organization.
This time of isolation can increase anxiety and sleep deprivation. My tips for you during this time:
Physically distance yourself, but socially connect
If you need to leave your home, protect yourself and others you may encounter
Frequently and diligently wash your hands (using the 20 second rule)
Stay informed but limit yourself from overwhelming newsfeeds
Be diligent in knowing what is credible and what isn’t
Move your body aka stretch
Get some Vitamin D — even if it’s just standing outside your residence
Enjoy your quarantine snacks but not too much!
Contact your doctor and ask for contingency plans for any upcoming visits/treatments
Reach out if your emotions get the best of you. “You are NOT alone!”
Also, if you or someone you know is struggling to find financial resources during COVID-19 for people with cancer, I encourage you to visit this list complied by Cancer.net.
These are just a few reminders to keep you healthy and safe during this time. Remember you are a Cervivor. We’re stronger together — even virtually.