Last week my hospital procedure was cancelled. It was deemed non-urgent. It was a procedure that required some preparation several days beforehand, so it was quite involved. Thankfully, I was not too far into the preparation when the procedure was called off.

It could have been a lot worse.

The hospital procedure was not the only thing to vanish in a puff of smoke. My regular treatment was cancelled as well. It was classified as non-essential, and as such, it was ceased with immediate effect. No chance to book a last-minute appointment or make other arrangements.

One minute it was there, the next it was gone.

This might not sound like a huge deal. But if you are like me, living with a chronic illness and chronic pain, you know precisely how much one comes to rely on their regular treatment. Having that ongoing appointment sets my mind at ease, not to mention the physical relief of actual treatment.

If you live with chronic illness, you know how much one relies on their regular treatment.

Everything else that happens in the space of a month – work, ministry, writing, other appointments – revolves around and relies on this treatment taking place. Without it, I become tense, cranky, depressed, moody, reactive and overwhelmed.

I turn into a bit of a crazy person.

I am not the only one who has been affected. Others are having their treatment cancelled as well. I have to wonder about the larger physical and mental impact of our pivotal treatments being deemed ‘non-essential’.

It feels pretty essential to me.

Finding out that my case was non-urgent and non-essential was my first COVID-19-related wobble. How am I going to do this, I wondered. How do I survive without my life- and sanity-saving treatment? How do I navigate the next fortnight, let alone the next six months?

How am I going to do this?

My heart goes out to every single person in a similar situation to mine. Many of you, living with chronic illness, fatigue, pain, disability and mental health issues must be feeling my pain. Literally. We are not alone in this. We are all affected, to some degree, by the pandemic.

So here are my top tips for surviving chronic illness in a time of COVID-19:

1. Come up with a plan. I am now living with the expectation of all future treatments and appointments being cancelled. So I have upped my home remedies and exercises in anticipation of greater pain levels. In this way, I should not have to rely too heavily on medication (but I will take my meds if I need to).

2. Cut yourself some slack. Cancellations mean we will not be in peak condition. Which means we are going to feel it. There will be days when we run out of energy. There will be times of physical limitation. There will be moments of overwhelm. Remind yourself this is ok. These are unusual circumstances. We will not be our usual selves.

3. Look for silver linings. I know it sounds cliched to say this, but practicing gratitude can throw our anxiety into sharp relief. One silver lining of my treatments being cancelled is I have to take better care of myself and set clear boundaries around what I can and cannot do. That is a silver lining. And I am grateful.

Practicing gratitude can throw our anxiety into sharp relief.

Even when our completely necessary treatments are cancelled, there are ways of looking after ourselves. They may not be ideal. But neither is this situation. With a little planning, a whole lot of grace and a dash of thankfulness, we will survive.

We will get through this together.

Do you or someone you know live with chronic illness? How have you been impacted by the COVID-19 situation? What are your top tips for survival? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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