Why I Cut Out Friends Who Don’t Take COVID Seriously

“I have some news,” my dad tells me on our morning call, “my mother died.” 

I immediately stop pouring my coffee and take him off speakerphone. 

“Wait, what?” 

My father goes on to tell me that she passed away earlier that morning in her London apartment and that he would send me the Zoom funeral information when he had it. I then ask my dad the question that I’m sure many of us have been asking a lot more these last few months, the question that can change a 10-minute chat into a 3-hour conversation, the most important question at this time: “Are you okay?” 

“Yeah,” he says, “I’m fine.” 

Back in November, my dad had to have his leg amputated. There are no words to describe the agonizing fear of waiting for the doctors to give you updates or trying to memorize every word and sound of your parent’s voice as they are being wheeled into surgery because, hey, it may be the last time you hear them say “I love you.” After three major operations, he has been recuperating and learning his new normal, including walking with a prosthetic. When COVID-19 hit the rehabilitation home where he is currently residing, they immediately followed protocol and shut down. I haven’t hugged my dad since my visit to the Bay Area over the holidays and now, when I visit from Los Angeles, I stand outside his window to see him. These last couple of visits, I’ve wondered, “when will I hug my dad again?” and when a parent loses a parent, it’s the harsh reminder that we don’t get to keep ours forever, either. 

This pandemic hasn’t gotten under control because many believe that doing things such as wearing a mask when around others, staying home, and practicing social distancing will lead to the virus controlling their freedom. Thanks to social media, I’ve learned that some of these people aren’t just people on the internet—some were part of my inner circle.

When a friend asked me what I was doing for the 4th of July, I told them there were many reasons why I didn’t feel like being patriotic, but more importantly, I want to see my loved ones without the fear of getting them sick. When I asked this friend what their plans were, they told me they were driving from our state, California, to another high-case state. After reassuring me that they weren’t one of those people who don’t believe in masks, they stated that they were skeptical about the vaccine based on their own knowledge and research of epidemiology. They then stated the infamous line, “We can’t live in fear forever.” For the record, this person is not a doctor. 

Now, I am all for questioning authority, but when things are uncertain and peoples’ lives are at risk, I am not one to put my opinion and assessment over facts and numbers. I did express to this friend that their decision saddened me, and although I do know they understood where I was coming from after almost losing a parent, I can’t be the only one whose friendships have changed or have ended during this unpredictable chapter. 

I compare the decisions we make during this time to drinking and driving. Sometimes people get away with it, so they don’t think anything of it. But not getting caught doesn’t make it right. Also, what happens when you hit another car and hurt someone, let alone kill them? What if your decision hurts or kills the passengers in your car? Then your judgment, your decision, has severely impacted someone else—how can someone be okay with this?   

I spent my July 4th by the pool alone, drinking piña coladas, FaceTiming friends and family, and of course, watching everyone’s Instagram stories. The IG stories I saw ranged from people secluded among small groups in other parts of the United States, to the politically slanted “If you don’t celebrate today, it defeats the purpose of this day” rants. I unfollowed and deleted and kept telling myself a quote a former colleague once told me: “Don’t you just love when the trash takes itself out?” 

It’s incredible how a pandemic that has asked us to simply wear a mask when around others and to stay home has revealed who people truly are. My grandmother hid from the Nazis during World War II in Holland when she was eight years old. Having a gas mask was a luxury—it meant you had a chance at survival. She didn’t have an iPhone to FaceTime her parents that she was separated from. I mean, hell, she didn’t even have food—she lived off tulip bulbs. But sure, tell me more about how wearing a mask is infringing upon your life.

I am by no means an angel. I’ve received a speeding ticket, sent 3am text messages that deserve to be a meme, and, not to sound like a 45-year-old divorcée, I can be fun. I don’t take myself seriously, I’m the friend who keeps Twister and mini-beer pong on hand “just in case” and has a small reputation of being a bit of a wild child. I have managed to safely hang out with a couple of friends outside at a distance, and I will be the first to acknowledge that minimal human interaction is vital to everyone’s mental health. However, when you don’t choose to care about others’ health, others’ lives and your behavior is delaying many of us from being able to simply hug our loved ones again, amongst the many other long term effects it could have on others, then yeah… 

You and I have nothing in common. 

Images: Ranta Images / Shutterstock.com

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Me As A 29-Year-Old Cancer Patient

COVID-19 has changed all of our lifestyles. (Almost) everyone is practicing social distancing, panic-buying toilet paper, and staying home from work and school. It’s more severe for someone like me, because I’m a stage four cancer patient currently going through chemotherapy. I’m the absolute definition of “at-risk” and “immunocompromised” right now. I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in October, and I only have FIVE WEEKS of chemotherapy (out of 20) left to go. When you go through chemo, the drugs wipe out your white blood cells (that fight viruses) along with the cancer cells. This makes you particularly vulnerable in the midst of an insane, fast-spreading disease like coronavirus. There is no treatment for coronavirus, so basically, if I were to get it, I’d be immediately hospitalized, and my body wouldn’t be able to fight it off, and I’d be royally f*cked. And right before I might actually be cancer-free, guys!

Actual footage of me at home rn:

To attempt to keep me alive, my doctor has demanded I go into quarantine, which is worse than social distancing. I am not allowed to leave the house except to go to chemo every week. I’m not allowed to see friends. I can’t go to the grocery store. This is super inconvenient because grocery delivery services near me have also shut down (why tho, Instacart?) and Amazon is out of basically anything useful. I’m lucky I have awesome friends who will bring me food and that restaurants are still doing takeout, otherwise I’d be pretty screwed. I’m still allowed to go to chemo (because I have to or my boobs will try to murder me for a third time), so I get to hang out with my friend while she drives me like a chauffeur, with me sitting in the back on the passenger side to maintain maximum distance. (She gets 5 stars, although she doesn’t even provide snacks or water.)

Overall, quarantine is really, really boring. I’ve barely worked since my cancer fun began, but before that, I was a career freelancer who already worked from home. I had so many surgical procedures done that it was pretty impossible to keep up with my workload, and with the last four months of chemo, I’ve been too sick to work majority of the time. I spent a lot of time curled in the fetal position and trying to sleep until I feel better. The minimal work I’ve kept up throughout my illness has mostly been put on hold, as companies close and don’t need as much output. Lucky for you guys, Betches has continued to put out content to keep you entertained during these next few weeks, soooo you’re welcome. I’d be really screwed financially, though, if I wasn’t already from having cancer/not working enough. Companies just aren’t thinking about hiring out extra artists/writers when they’re trying to keep their own employees afloat.

So yeah, not a whole lot going on for me. I’m trying to stop ordering stuff online so I don’t have to frantically Lysol the box it comes in and wash my hands a million times after opening the box. Also, I’m not even allowed to drink anymore! Fun fact: you are actually allowed to drink on chemo—just minimally (two drinks max, twice a week), so it doesn’t make your nonexistent immune system worse. I, however, started doing immune therapy (another treatment that destroys cancer cells in the body) at the same time as chemo, so my liver freaked out and now I’m not allowed to drink at all. (The immune therapy is the only thing that’s really going to save my life and keep me around long-term, so I’ll take it, but still.) So you think social distancing is bad? Imagine being quarantined AND sober!

 

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The beginning of the decade to the end of the decade is a little weird for me. In 2010, I was in college, killing it in my career path, had all the goals and hopes and dreams in the world. Now I’m ending the decade sick from chemo with a fresh diagnosis: stage 4 mets with four new tumors. Usually at the end of the year, I beat myself up for the list of goals I didn’t accomplish and make new schedules for how hard I’ll work the next year. Now my career and everything I’ve worked for is off the rails and I’m just happy I survived this year and praying I survive another. Here’s to the end of 2019 and I hope I begin 2021 able to say that I’m cancer survivor, not a patient. Stage 4 cancer simply isn’t enough to take me down. 🔥#fuckcancer #fuckbreastcancer #stage4cancer

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Obviously the worst part of being high-risk is not having to stay at home and endure a little bit of boredom; it’s the people that aren’t taking social distancing seriously and are putting me more at risk. I keep seeing people (like Resident Asshole Vanessa Hudgens) post things like, “Oh, well the only people dying are elderly or compromised already.” First of all, that’s not true. You’re not invincible just because you’re young. But also? I don’t want to die, Vanessa, especially when I’m five weeks from being cancer-free. It’s really awkward reading friends say things like this when I’m sitting here at 29 years old in the high-risk category. Can you f*cking not just work out at home for a couple weeks so that this disease stops spreading and I’m less likely to get it/die from it? Why is it okay that people die from this at all when all you have to do to prevent it is stay home? It’s not asking that much. But sooo sorry you’re missing Coachella, so sad for you. Why should I live when Scheana Shay needs to go to Palm Springs? Anyone who is not practicing social distancing is saying, “F*ck everyone else, I don’t care if people die as long as I can do whatever I want.” What if it was you who was at risk of dying, though? Would you still be saying that? I’m going to guess no.

If you’re using this as a reason to travel and potentially spread disease because you think it doesn’t affect you so it doesn’t matter, let me just tell you to your face: F*CK YOU, MAN. You better pray people are kinder to you when you inevitably get sick, get old, or have to deal with an insane pandemic in the high-risk group.

If you’re bored AF while social distancing, here’s what I’ve done since getting cancer: reorganized my entire apartment, made a list of every book I need to read in my lifetime (and then just reread Harry Potter again, whoops), watched almost all the Real Housewives franchises, ordered one million plants from The Sill, cleaned out all my expired beauty products, bought a lot of cute spring outfits online that I have nowhere to wear now, and watched A LOT of Netflix. I also bought a ton of different wigs but I don’t think that really will apply to most of you, unless you also happen to be bald.

For those of you who are social distancing, thank you for staying inside and washing your hands so coronavirus doesn’t spread. You’re awesome and I appreciate you. I’m also extremely alarmed by how many people did not know how to wash their hands prior to this. If anything good came out of this, let it be that the masses now understand basic hygiene.

Happy quarantining! Have a drink (or 5) for me!

Images: Holly Hammond; hollydoesart / Instagram Giphy (3)

6 Products To Save Your Skin From The Effects Of Being Inside All Day

If you, too, have been doing your best to help flatten the curve, you haven’t left your home in what feels like years. Back when life didn’t seem like the plot of Contagion, I thought spending a little more time in my French-country-meets-bohemian apartment sounded like it could be nice. However, after a week of being locked in what I now realize is a tiny box coated in about a thousand layers of paint that keep the doors from closing all the way, I am les mis, to say the least.

And I’m not the only one; my skin is also suffering through this difficult time. Look, even though my complexion should be thanking me for not covering it in 17 different cosmetics everyday, it does not appear to be showing any gratitude. As it just so happens, being deprived of vitamin D and living in an apartment where the heat doesn’t turn off until May isn’t very good for my face. If you have noticed that your skin is feeling more sensitive and drier than usual, you are not alone and you do not have to accept that your skin is f*cked. Over the course of four New York winters, three New York summers in an overly air conditioned office, and several spring breaks on the West Coast, I tried about every skincare product out there, and these are my favorite moisturizing and/or soothing ones that combat the elements of an apartment.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $22

Like I said, I’ve experimented with a myriad of products, but I always come back to this one. I have been using it for about eight years and am just as obsessed now as I was when I got it as a little baby college freshman. What I love most about it is the consistency: it goes on kind of thick, but it doesn’t just sit on your skin and rub off the second you touch your face. It takes about 10 minutes to absorb on a normal day, but on the days that I am chilling inside, it absorbs almost instantly. It’s also very reasonably priced, which is great because I’m using way more now than usual.

Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment, $24

(If you haven’t noticed, I love Kiehl’s.) The skin around your eyes is much thinner than the skin on the rest of your face, which is why it’s usually the first place where you’ll find signs of aging. *sigh* A lot of people who try this cream hate it because it goes on like cream cheese (very tick and heavy), but those people didn’t bother learning how to use it! This does, indeed, go on very thick, but after you work it into your skin, you can actually feel it breaking down to a very watery consistency, at which point, you use your ring finger to dab it into the skin.

I wear this at night because even though it does absorb, it leaves your skin a little shiny and not in a cute way. Its hero ingredient is avocado oil, which is super moisturizing and can help keep that sensitive area around your eyes from getting too dry and angry.

Lush Mask Of Magnaminty, $14.95

If there is a brand I may love more than Kiehl’s, it’s Lush. I really appreciate that literally every ingredient in their products is natural and pronounceable. This was actually the first product I ever tried from Lush and since then, I have spent many, many dollars in this headache-inducing store.

Anyway, if your skin is dry, moisturizing is key, but so is exfoliating. Even if you can’t see it, which is probably for the best, your dry skin flakes and forms a layer of dead skin on your face (gross) and blocks your other products’ ability to do what they’re supposed to do. This Lush mask smells like a Thin Mint, which, for a while, was its main selling point for me. It’s also made with honey (super moisturizing), mint (soothing) and ground aduki beans (exfoliating). Unlike a chemical exfoliator, the ground aduki beans exfoliate your skin when you wash the mask off. I usually wet my hands and just kind of move the mask, which doesn’t dry on your skin, around my face and I can feel the beans exfoliating. I am always left feeling super clean and rejuvenated.

After exfoliating, it’s important to soothe your skin, and the best way to do that is with a very gentle serum. Serums are great because they’re the most concentrated of all skincare products, but this one is my favorite because it’s not very aggressive. I don’t entirely understand which ingredients do this, but the second I spread it around my face, it feels cooling and soothing. It’s a really slippery, gel-like serum that goes a long way. I’m obsessed.

Image Skincare Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser, $32

Until I tried this two years ago, I was a firm believer in cleansers being kind of a waste. Like, it’s on your face for 30 seconds tops, so how much could it possibly do, right? Then I stole this from my mom and I am so happy I did. First of all, having vitamin C in your skincare routine is essential. Secondly, your cleanser should leave your skin feeling clean (duh) and supple. When you cleanse your face and it feels tight and dry, that means your cleanser is way too harsh. This one has a lotion-like texture, which, in my opinion, is ideal for a cleanser because it’s easy to move around, doesn’t get everywhere, and it’s rich enough do do its job.

ByTerry Baume de Rose Lip Care, $60

 

I am fully prepared to get verbally murdered in the comments because this price is laughable and almost offensive, but I swear it is worth it. I went on Accutane when I was in high school and this balm was the only product that kept my lips from ripping in half. I know Aquaphor is allegedly amazing, but in my opinion, this is the only thing that works when my lips are dry af. Because it’s so expensive, this is definitely not my everyday product for chapped lips; it’s my go-to when I feel like smiling could be dangerous for my mouth. It has a really buttery texture and does this thing where half of it absorbs and the other half coats and protects your lips. Most importantly, it’s not sticky, so if you shake your head and a strand of hair touches your lips, it wont be there until the day you die.

Image: Unsplash; SpaceNK; Lush; Kieh’s (2); Image Skin Care; Dermstore

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What Pregnant Women Need To Know About Coronavirus

There’s no way around it: the coronavirus pandemic is sweeping the globe and it’s scary. And when people get scared, they tend to panic and seek answers on the cesspool that is their aunt’s Facebook page wherever they can. Pregnant women may be feeling especially vulnerable right now. So in an effort to dispel some of the misinformation out there, I consulted Dr. Daniel Roshan, MD, an OB/GYN practicing at Rosh Maternal & Fetal Medicine, to break down how the virus may impact pregnant women.

Are Pregnant Women More At Risk Of Contracting Coronavirus? 

The short answer is it doesn’t seem so. According to Dr. Roshan, pregnant women have so far not been found to be more susceptible to the coronavirus than the general population. That being said, “in general pregnant women are at higher risk to get infections,” so it’s important to take precautions, even if there’s no heightened risk of contracting coronavirus per se. There’s also nothing indicating that a pregnant woman who has contracted the virus will necessarily pass it on to her fetus, as Dr. Roshan notes that “coronavirus hasn’t been shown to cross the placenta and so far no congenital cases reported.” In other words, there haven’t been any cases reported at birth. Thank goodness for small miracles, human and otherwise!

OK, But Could There Be Other Risks To The Fetus If A Pregnant Woman Has Coronavirus?

So while a fetus likely can’t contract coronavirus from an infected mother, Dr. Roshan did note some potential risks associated with acute respiratory distress syndrome, otherwise known as ARDS, which occurs when fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs. Because a severe case of coronavirus can lead to respiratory complications, Dr. Roshan mentioned that “f a pregnant patient gets really sick with coronavirus and develops ARDS, the fetus will be at risk of premature labor and delivery.” These may not be the only complications, however, so check with your doctor to make sure they don’t have any other concerns.

I’m Pregnant And Think I May Have Coronavirus. What Should I Do?

While the best course of action is to take all relevant precautions to avoid infection, it’s inevitable that some of us are going to get infected. If you think you’re one of the unlucky ones, don’t panic just yet. Dr. Roshan recommends following the current guideline of self-isolation and monitoring for symptoms. If your symptoms are mild and don’t include fever and shortness of breath, you may be able to stay home and recover from there. However, if you’re experiencing high fever and shortness of breath, you should go to the hospital to be more carefully monitored.

 What Precautions Should Pregnant Women Take Right Now?

There are a number of precautions pregnant women can take to avoid coronavirus, and the good news is they are the precautions that all of us should be taking. Dr. Roshan recommends the following:

And, of course, you should consult your doctor as needed, especially if you are experiencing symptoms.

Is There Anything Else Pregnant Women Should Know?

 

Other than taking the above precautions, Dr. Roshan’s main piece of advice is to take this pandemic seriously and not wait until it’s too late: “any in the US took it lightly until they heard someone they know or been in contact with has it and then they panic.” Instead of being reactive, we can all do our part to stop the spread by taking the relevant precautions now while we wait for a resolution and, hopefully, an eventual vaccine. At the risk of sounding like an extra in High School Musical, we’re all in this together.

So there you have it. While there’s no denying that this pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down yet, pregnant women can take comfort in the fact that they’re no more at risk than the rest of us. They have enough to worry about, after all.

Images: Fallon Michael / Unsplash