I’d like to think I have a ‘healthy’ relationship with germs – I know they’re there, I respect them, and then I wash them away with a ‘normal’ level of anxiety and caution. But if I’m being honest, I have to admit that maybe I’m a little more neurotic than that. I cringe when I touch a shopping cart. I check twice for the hand sanitizer if we go to the playground. The Jungle (or other places like it) is a cesspool in my mind as I imagine what’s lurking in the ball pit or on those blow up slides. We’ll use hand sanitizer when we leave a store and THEN wash our hands as soon as we get home. If we’ve been to The Jungle or somewhere similar, I’m reminding myself – as my kids are washing their hands – that it’s unreasonable to have them take showers immediately, they can wait until bedtime. But really, all I’m thinking about are the germs they’re spreading around the house and whether they’re touching their eyes or mouths. I know the germs are there, but I try to temper my neurosis about them with a heavy dose of reason.
Since I started cancer treatment, I’ve tried to maintain this level of reason about germs even if my risks of getting sick are higher. Everyone who was going to be around me while I was going through those 6 weeks of chemorad had a flu shot since we were heading straight into ‘flu season.’ I’ve stayed healthy (germ-wise) and my family has stayed healthy (except for a Christmas time stomach bug – those things are crazy virulent!) I will wipe down stair railings, door knobs and other regularly touched surfaces with disinfecting wipes. I wipe down a shopping cart handle if wipes are available. I use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. I have had to stay away from school events if possible – meaning my son’s kindergarten teacher is getting decidedly less help in the classroom this year than I’d meant to give her (I’ve made a TERRIBLE room mom). If someone has even a vague symptom of anything contagious, they don’t visit or drive me on errands.
We have a house rule that everyone washes their hands when they come in the house and before they eat. I teach my kids about germs so they hopefully remember to wash their hands when they’re not at home. We try to eat well and get fresh air each day. It’s worked well for us so far (knock on wood) and I’m still managing to temper my germ phobia.
But always in the back of my mind – as I cuddle with my son at night or sit with my daughter as she watches her favorite show – ‘What if I get sick? What if I end up in the hospital because of some stupid infection? What if it’s pneumonia that takes me, not the cancer, because I couldn’t fight off a simple cold?’ I push those thoughts down and continue to cuddle or laugh. I’ll enjoy the moments and then go wash my hands.