I know, it’s been awhile. I also know the start of 2021 has been a bit of a sluggish one for my body and spirit. However, as we’ve reached the start of another new month in a year following one like no other, I feel more optimistic than I have in who knows how long.
I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday. The mask I wore to the appointment couldn’t conceal my emotions. I actually felt tears of joy fill my eyes and heard a slight tremble in my voice as I answered the nurse’s questions before she administered the totally painless shot. Then reality hit: in just two more weeks, I’d be considered fully vaccinated. The moment was, in a word, surreal.
One year ago at this very time, we had absolutely no idea when we’d have a handle on the pandemic nor did we know when life-saving vaccines would be available. On a personal note, I wondered when it would be safe to see, let alone hug my elderly parents again; how long New York City would remain in a state of “pause” with sirens punctuating what became an eerie silence in so many parts of this concrete jungle; and of course, when would the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from this horrible virus stop soaring. At this time in 2020, I was also just a couple of weeks away from taking the online Johns Hopkins Contact Tracing course that would lead to a job with New York City’s Test + Trace Corps. I can’t help but smile thinking about how the program has evolved in its outreach efforts, with many of my colleagues now making phone calls to help our neighbors receive vaccines.
As for the aftermath of the vaccine, I did feel pretty crummy after both my first and second dose. However, the side effects only confirmed my immune system was doing its job and after 48 hours, I was pretty much back to normal following each shot. I’ll take two days of feeling “off” versus ending up in the hospital – or worse – if I somehow contract the virus in the future.
Meanwhile, plans are underway to get New York City completely re-open. Broadway tickets go on sale today for shows starting September 14th. Restaurants are open later. In a couple of weeks, you can catch a Yankees or Mets game and get a vaccine at the stadium. Warmer sunshine and throngs of people have started filling the parks. There’s just a buzz of new optimism in the air. With the unofficial kick off of summer on the horizon, that buzz can only grow louder. As we head toward that growing light at the end of a painfully long tunnel, I wish you and yours good health and safety. Here’s to better days ahead and making some serious plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
And so we turn the calendar to a Breast Cancer Awareness Month like no other.
As we kick off October, I find myself feeling more out of sorts than usual because I’m not gearing up for what’s been a favorite fall highlight since 2014. There’s no breast cancer awareness walk on my calendar. I completely understand why fundraising walks around the country for all types of causes have been put on hold until at least 2021, but this absence only punctuates another aspect of “normal” that no longer exists thanks to COVID-19.
My repeat readers probably recall my journey in the fight against breast cancer started as a tribute to my Mom, a warrior survivor; and my dear high school friend Elizabeth, who sadly lost her battle with the disease in 2016. The experience changed dramatically in 2018 when the annual 39.3-mile trek as part of Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer morphed into a much shorter walk through Central Park as Avon began a new partnership with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides campaign. The mission, however, remained the same: to raise awareness about a disease that is still the leading cancer-killer of women worldwide and support patients and their families through the fight. This year, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer initiative has made changes for less crowd-centric fundraising efforts and the main push kicks off today.
Like so many people, I’m trying to navigate a much different October path this year. My passion for helping in this fight remains, but there comes a point when each of us has to step back and acknowledge “I can’t do it all.” I would have loved to join the Pink Forward Step Challenge, but between my new job in the contact tracing world; caring for my elderly parents; planning for an upcoming move and trying to stay healthy – physically and emotionally – well, sometimes you just have to say no.
What I can do is make a donation to this year’s Making Strides of Central park 2020 campaign. However, I encourage those only with the means to do so to consider doing the same. I realize it’s been an extremely difficult year for so many people, especially on the financial front. I hear about these hardships almost daily as I reach out to COVID cases and contacts around my beloved city.
While everything looks very different, the passions that drive our heart and soul can remain strong and steadfast. Finding a different way to channel that energy will continue to be a challenge as we push forward through these difficult days. All we can do is try our best each and every day and not give up hope for better times ahead and more chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Well, hello September. I hope this Workout Wednesday post finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe and stealing some moments of sunshine as another summer winds down. I thought I’d kick off another almost-fall season here at LauraLovesFitness with an update on how my world has changed in a way I never could have imagined.
I find it nearly impossible to believe it’s been roughly six months since New York City basically went into shut down mode. Only a few weeks before, I had decided to make a major career change and leave the world of corporate video production and hosting to become a personal trainer. When the gyms closed, I had no idea what I’d do next. I never could have imagined just a few months later I’d be using the journalism skills I learned during my years at Northwestern as part of the New York City Health + Hospitals Test and Trace Corps.
My official title is contact monitor. From Sunday through Thursday, I reach out to those who have tested positive for COVID-19 (cases) along with contacts they’ve identified. Sometimes I’m the first person to alert a neighbor he or she has been in close contact with a case. The purpose of each and every call is to conduct wellness checks, encourage the case or contact to follow the appropriate isolation or quarantine guidelines and also provide resources. That includes everything from providing the phone number for the city’s mental health hotline to setting up food or medication deliveries and informing my neighbors about the free hotel rooms available for those who need a place to isolate or quarantine safely.
It has been a challenging and rewarding experience so far. I’m able to do my work remotely, though there are other members of Test & Trace who go out into the community when multiple attempts to reach people by phone fail. Thanks to help from translators, I’ve communicated with my neighbors in many languages, including Spanish, Bengali, Russian and Mandarin. I talk to nervous parents of pediatric contacts as young as three years old and happily tell a 75-year-old case they can get back to the “new” normal on their last day of isolation or quarantine. While I do this work from my laptop, I “meet” with my supervisor and the rest of the contact monitors in my team for a virtual chat each morning. We also reach out to each other to vent after a particularly emotional call or on a day when we just need some extra support. We all look forward to the day when the 20 of us can meet in person.
As we muddle our way through a September like no other, my heart goes out to students, parents, teachers and administrators across the country who have either started or are gearing up for a first-of-its kind academic year. I also think of the gym owners and fitness professionals and those still struggling with whether they feel “safe” enough to return to their favorite workout spot. Then there are the struggling restaurant and small business owners; out-of-work Broadway actors and crew members; healthcare and essential workers; and pretty much everyone still doing their best to keep it together day after challenging day. Last but certainly not least, I think of all the victims of 9/11 and the families and friends who continue to mourn them as we approach the 19th anniversary of that horrific day.
No doubt we’re all in for a strange fall season. Here’s to hoping things improve a little each day and we simply do the best we can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!