Last weekend, I stayed in a tiny cabin at a campground near the beach. I knew I would be able to socially distance myself from others, while enjoying the outdoors and the late August weather. I knew the area well, and I took precautions, cleaned my living area, brought my own hand soap and utensils, and wore a mask anytime I was outside. I felt safe and relaxed.

Then, I woke up my first morning there with a slight headache and a scratchy throat. “This is it. Now I’ve done it.” I convinced myself that I had contracted COVID. I played it over in my head—what had I touched, who was I near, do I feel like I have a fever? Sitting with my coffee and these thoughts out on the front porch, I noted how pretty all of the trees were above me, with sunshine glinting through. Pine trees.

I am very allergic to pine trees.

“It’s allergies, Maris…” I took a Zyrtec and went on with my day. I wasn’t fully convinced until the headache and scratchy throat were gone later that afternoon. But even for that short period of time, I regretted that I tried to take a mini vacation in the middle of a pandemic. I felt guilty that somewhere along the way I let my guard down.

I realized that there are no longer any “just” sicknesses. “Just a cold,” “just the flu,” “just a little stomach bug.” COVID has infiltrated daily life to the point that, even if we do have “just allergies,” the angst of the possibility of it being COVID is an illness in its own right. It lingers in the backs of our minds. At what point does rational thinking go out the window? I was so focused on protecting myself from COVID, that I forgot all about the allergy I’ve lived with for 20 years. What’s even harder is that the symptoms of the virus are so widespread, and we are still learning.

Know that we are all going through this weird time together. This virus has forced us all, in its own twisted and unforeseen ways, to be purposeful with our daily life. I have found that the more I take caution to protect myself and my family, I’ve learned to slow down. I don’t have an answer for how to lessen the anxiety when any new symptoms pop up. Try your best to take note of what you are feeling, when it started, and be sure to call your care team if you are concerned. Just like you would normally do. And until you know for sure, try to distance yourself from others.

Marisa worked at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on a medical-oncology unit for several years. She then worked as an outpatient infusion nurse in Cherry Hill, NJ, and currently works per diem as a home hospice nurse. She also has her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Scranton, where she played basketball and made many lifelong friends. Originally from Philadelphia, she now resides in Mt. Ephraim, NJ. She spends her free time either in Cape May, skiing in the Poconos, or spending time with her family and friends- including her dog Peanut.