COVID-19 and the trials of treatment

Karen Wils photo Shown at right is Karen Wils, the “Chemo Beagler” or the “COVID Beagler.”

ESCANABA — The year 2020 has put me and most everybody else in a very unusual position.

We all feel a little trapped and uneasy thrown into a situation we have never faced before.

I always kind of thought I would need to have a stem cell transplant someday after I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2008.

I often referred to this blood cancer as my pesky woodtick. Fortunately, I have been blessed with good control of the disease until this year.

Leaving home, going to the Mayo Clinic and going through transplant is enough excitement for one person, but to be doing that while COVID-19 plagues our country is almost too much.

To say the last few months have been an interesting journey would be putting it mildly.

As the summer drew to a close, many changes were closing in on me, too. My son went off to a new job, and my daughter left for college. The very next week, my husband and I left for Minnesota for an unknown amount of weeks for my stem cell transplant.

For three-and-a-half weeks we were at Mayo. My husband was my excellent care giver through the strong chemo, and the transplant of my own stem cells and the long road to recovery.

Doing all of this during a pandemic is really interesting. The Mayo Clinic takes COVID-19 very seriously. So with much testing, temperature taking, sanitizing and constant mask wearing, we maneuvered through the treatment.

Social distancing when you are staying at the “Gift of Life Transplant House” and so far from home is very difficult. Phone calls, Zoom and Facebook became my life link to the kids, family and friends.

After going through some pretty weak days, finally my “new” immune system was strong enough for me to go home.

Oh, the great joy of heading down those last miles from Menominee to Escanaba — back into the land of trees and water!

Sleeping in my own bed, seeing my pets, and being able to stand in my own garden felt so wonderful, but the house was so quiet without the kids.

The COVID-19 cautions had to continue, too.

I wear my mask and feel a little bit trapped, like everybody else these days. I pray that I am making all healthy decisions when I encourage my children to go to church or my husband to go to the grocery store.

The COVID-19 virus threatens big things and little things like family traditions that have to be rethought. With great sadness, I postponed until next year our annual camp gathering/harvest festival. So many folks have been through canceled or postponed parties, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals.

As hard and as disappointing as this is, the important things remain. The trees still are changing to awesome autumn colors. The harvest season is in full swing. The wild animals are still thriving outside our windows, and our families are together even if we can’t do everything we want to do right now.

As I get stronger every day, I thank God. I pray for a cure for COVID-19. Yoopers are tough and our traditions will thrive long after this pandemic!


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.


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