Opinion | How surviving childhood leukemia is helping me through the isolation of COVID-19

It used to be that face masks and forced social distance marked me as 'cancer girl.' It turns out that time prepared me to get through this one.

8/1/2020 7:59:00 PM

Opinion | Leah Vann: 'It used to be that face masks and forced social distance marked me as 'cancer girl.' It turns out that time prepared me to get through this one.' - NBCNewsTHINK

It used to be that face masks and forced social distance marked me as 'cancer girl.' It turns out that time prepared me to get through this one.

Back in high school, a paper mask both was my ticket to interactions with the outside world and an alienating accessory — a signifier marking me as “cancer girl” — made of plain blue paper, every one. Now, they can be a fashion statement, a way to show a bit of your personality even if you have to hide part of your face, and an opportunity to tell people more about yourself. But, more than that, masks signal that we are all part of a community that’s combatting a seemingly omnipresent enemy together.

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We all — well, many of us, anyway — protect each other by pushing grocery carts like the aisles are highways, allowing others the right-of-way. We make more room when we pass people on the sidewalks. We let people exit doors before we try to push our way through. While these actions sometimes feel awkward, I see them as acts of community love.

Still, isolation wears on mental health. It can make it difficult to stay motivated to socially distance, forcing us to turn toward our Netflix subscriptions for the illusion of normal socialization, watching our favorite characters transport us to different worlds — possibly ones we might prefer.

But what I learned in the hospital was that the longer I waited for normal, the better it felt when it finally returned. Read more: NBC News »

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The Florida couple continues to do more by involving their community in fundraising efforts for more masks.

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