My first sense that this virus would be different was when my library supervisor called to be sure, at my age, that I wanted to work during the pandemic. Until that moment, I hadn’t personally realized how deadly the virus could be.  For someone who’s been managing a diagnosis of major depression with an anti-depressant as well as coping skills for a couple of decades, I wasn’t sure how I would cope. I’m a very social person, so not being connected with my peeps was going to be difficult.

Initially, sheltering at home was not too bad — I spent time reading and writing cards to friends I hadn’t heard from in a while. In some cases, it rekindled old friendships, in others I learned the passing of dear ones. But, at least, I was engaged with the world even though I wasn’t actually seeing folks.

Stuck at home during a national campaign season isn’t particularly good for anyone, but I was able to limit my television time — only watching news once a day and listening to public radio some. I read the Denver Post more frequently and online articles sent by respected friends, enjoying different view points. I felt like I was contributing something besides my vote by doing some letter writing and postcard sending for a couple of local candidates. This kept my mind off most of the national chaos.  

I don’t know what I would’ve done without the five pets that live with me — a rescue cat and a rescue dog (both seven years old), a pair of five year old parakeets and an aquatic turtle of undetermined years. While my pup got me out every day for at least one walk, the rest were always getting themselves in some sort of trouble and the turtle had to be removed from my tub each time I showered. They kept me laughing and busy — and cuddled up next to me when I needed it.

I kept up some of my volunteer work by completing a virtual National Alliance on Mental Illness walk out at Hayden Meadows with another member — we sent photos, masks and all. Also, I fasted for 10 meals to raise money for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Scleroderma Foundation whose walk was canceled initially. Our local Huff’n’Puffers changed their way to meet — we didn’t carpool — and I kept up with masked weekly hikes.

I appreciate our local eateries who have stayed open, served curbside, carried out and delivered. I did all of those and enjoyed sitting on patios in the sun and fresh air eating while being able to visit with friends as we distanced. I, also, took two fly fishing classes this summer to help our local businesses and may have found a new, fun way to distance.

This fall while the stay at home was beginning to get a bit tedious, my radiologist found something suspicious during a routine mammogram. I lost the bet when he did the needle biopsy and found a ductal carcinoma. Always one to use humor, I named that five millimeter. mass “Daffy” since he was a DUCtal cancer. This episode provided the most stress because I’ve never had cancer before and nor is there a history in the family. However, my lovely surgeon just cut that sucker out and found no other cancer in my lymph nodes. My oncologist now has me on a hormone blocker with no noticed side effects — cancer free and blessed.

Our governor and local health department have been incredible — most of our Lake County folks have been able to manage the virus at home and I haven’t heard of any deaths here. Believing that this too shall pass are childhood memories of the Polio epidemic when my sister and I played in the yard sprinkler as we weren’t allowed to go to the pool.  Despite a few school friends in braces, we all survived and returned to life as we knew it. Reading the Herald’s 1918 columns about the Spanish flu helped as our community survived that.

The best gift of this pandemic has been my Quaker meeting worship on Zoom — I’ve loved every minute with this blessed community. Every morning, despite this deadly virus, I wake up glad to still be here and convinced that it’s up to me to have a good day.

Annie Livingston Garrett is a Leadville local.

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