Shielding as a family
This story was written when people with blood cancer were shielding across the UK. For up-to-date information on current restrictions and guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, see our information on staying safe and government guidance.
It came as a surprise when we received a letter from our GP telling us that our 10-year-old son Andrew was ‘extremely vulnerable’ to coronavirus. This is because he had leukaemia when he was three. We were advised to shield Andrew for 12 weeks.
Shortly after, we received a second letter asking us to sign up to the government’s vulnerable list. We held off because at the time, we had food deliveries from an online company booked in. However, these were soon cancelled, and we were suddenly without any slots.
We became more and more anxious at the thought of going without basic supplies.
We were unsure what to do. Andrew has been in remission from leukaemia for four years. And after speaking to a few of our childhood cancer friends, some had received similar letters and others had not.
Taking action against uncertainty
We read the coronavirus information on the Blood Cancer UK website, which was very informative. It helped us come to the decision that as Andrew had had leukaemia, and even though we think of him as a normal, healthy 10-year-old, it wasn’t worth taking any risks. So we decided to shield as a family, since we were able to.
We also decided to sign up to the government’s vulnerable list. One morning we received an emergency food parcel, with a week’s worth of non-perishable items. We felt a little embarrassed, but everything got eaten that week!
Our supermarket has now also recognised us as being on the vulnerable list, and gives us delivery slots – this is a huge weight lifted.
I'm glad we are shielding all together. We miss the exercise, but being at home gives peace of mind.
Coping with staying in
We have currently shielded for four weeks. We’re using the rooms in our house to be together when we want to, but apart when we need to as well.
We are all cooking a lot more – Andrew and his sister Clara have enjoyed cooking various dishes for us, like pizza muffins and spaghetti Bolognese! A positive from our situation is that the children have become really good friends.
Although we miss going for leg-stretching walks, we’re making sure we do exercise together each day – be it Just Dance, Joe Wicks, a Zoom with our cousin who teaches Zumba, or HIIT routines made up by Andrew and Clara!
The emotional impact
The enormity of being in the house for 12 weeks has hit each of us at different times.
Andrew has a sense of responsibility for the situation we’re in, but we’re always clear that having blood cancer is nobody’s fault. We remind him that the rest of the country, and the world, are in very similar situations, and everyone is going through this in their own way.
Clara suddenly realised that if schools went back, she wouldn’t be able to. Being a teen, she misses her friends. It is the same for me – I miss my teaching staff, and if my school went back soon, I wouldn’t be able to return to welcome the community and ease transitions.
Looking for the positives
Even though we’re at home all day, we still talk about our days over dinner, like we would have done before.
Joseph likes to ask the children for two good things and one bad thing about the day, so they can reflect positively about the situation we are in.
In a way, we are used to family isolation. We spent 72 nights in hospital and many weeks at home when Andrew was unwell. The difference is, now he’s better, it feels like we’re making up for lost family time.