The below is a guest blog by Madison, a QFCC Youth Champion

Like many young people, I was excited to launch into the new decade that is 2020, particularly as I am currently in my final year of university and due to graduate in December. I never imagined that our world could be so significantly disrupted by COVID-19 or that we would seemingly watch the months fly by from the secure insides of our homes. I felt compelled to write this blog, albeit a little bit late, to share with you the reality of being categorised within the 4% high-risk COVID mortality category, as a 19-year-old. I have always been hesitant to publicly speak about my chronic illness, primarily because I don’t want to be treated differently or to discuss the types of medication I receive, or even to talk about the illness itself. But, if this experience has taught me anything, it is the importance of not taking things for granted and utilising the platforms and resources we have available to make a positive difference for others. So, if you will indulge me, I would like to share my experience of living without an immune system during lockdown.

My family and I went into complete isolation at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with our only physical contact with the outside world being when I needed to go for my regular eight weekly treatment. As part of my treatment, I undergo infusions of medication at a specialised centre within the hospital. Within this centre, on a daily basis, other people from the 4% high-risk category attend here to be treated for cancer and related illnesses. This experience is normally quite stressful as I have bad veins and it makes it difficult to insert the IV in order to receive the medication. This time was made more stressful as I didn’t have any support person with me, and I was also potentially exposing myself to other personnel who could be infected with COVID-19.

The other physical contact with the outside world occurred when I endured an incredibly bad flare up of my chronic illness, which resulted in having to be admitted to hospital. This was a very stressful experience, primarily because I had never had to be admitted before, let alone in the middle of a pandemic, which I was now exposed and vulnerable to. I was admitted for just under a week to receive high doses of anti-inflammatory medication, which place me at greater risk of being susceptible to any other illness, especially a virus like COVID19. So, although lockdown measures have begun to lift I, and many others who are in a similar immune-compromised state, will remain in isolation and continue to hope to be able to re-join the world in the near future.

In my everyday life, I am interning full-time, studying and attempting to virtually participate in a broad range of extracurricular activities alongside my university and local community organisations. I have adjusted pretty quickly to this new virtual environment, but I have also discovered the importance of maintaining boundaries for work, personal and down time. I have found that it is really easy to get caught up in non-stop work, in a variety of forms, and I have to remind myself to look after my wellbeing too. I know a lot of young people have been sharing concerns around their employment prospects after COVID, but I am optimistic that we will be able to come out of this experience stronger because we have wonderful examples from our prior generations who have shown us strength, resilience, determination, courage and conviction in times of uncertainty. In addition, we have the ability to continue with education via online platforms and for those of us who have been let go from casual/part-time employment, we can utilise this time to develop technical and transferrable skills.

Finally, I wanted to share my genuine appreciation for every single one of you who has followed the social distancing and lockdown guidelines all year. You have remained patient, open-minded and adaptable during this time and that is truly humbling. Your sacrifices have saved countless numbers of people just like me and although it may seem small in comparison, I want to say thank you for being proactive in your response to this virus and for looking out for those around you with invisible illnesses, the 4%. You have helped keep me safe, you have helped the numerous cancer patients I see each time I get an infusion; you have helped those who suffer from auto immune disorders and you have helped those who are immune compromised, amongst countless others.

I also want to say thank you to the world leaders who are under incredible pressure to maintain their composure and execute strategies to keep their citizens safe during a time where no one has the answers. Thank you to the frontline workers who continue to risk their lives every day they go to work. Thank you to the final year students who are missing out on their year of firsts and lasts. Thank you to the children of front-line workers who have said goodbye indefinitely to their parents and caregivers. Thank you to those who have contributed to recovery efforts. Thank you to those who are hard at work researching a vaccine and thank you to those who are participating in vaccine trials to accelerate the rate that we are able to become protected. This virus will of course be a defining moment in our recent history, but it is ultimately an opportunity for us to demonstrate the best of humanity – through innovation, resilience, compassion, research and understanding.