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Low Carb Denver – An Amazing Conference at the Wrong Time in History

May you live in interesting times.”

Austin Chamberlain, UK

I was an hour away from walking out the door to go to Low Carb Denver. One hour… My bags were packed and sitting on a chair in the living room. My precious presentation poster was in a long mailing tube, my 500 postcards for the visitor swag bags were adding almost 8 lbs to my shoulder bag. My passport and US money were in my travel purse.

But all morning, I had been watching the news feeds with a knot in my stomach. The coronavirus was advancing across the world and the situation was changing hourly, both at home in Canada and in Denver. The first Facebook post that I saw that morning reported that a man in Sudbury (5 hours north of Toronto) was the first person in that region to test positive and he had only traveled as far as Toronto for a big mining conference. There were more cases being confirmed in Denver and the nearby ski resorts, where all the visitors would have traveled through Denver Airport.

Then the final blow that pushed me over the edge. A radiation oncologist at a large cancer centre, a healthy young woman in her 30’s, returned from a holiday in Hawaii and tested positive, but not until after going to work and seeing patients. I thought back to the teeming beehive of activity in the London Cancer Centre, with hundreds of people moving through the various waiting areas, labs, clinic rooms and chemo or radiation suites. Areas filled with sick, scared, immuno-compromised and vulnerable people. And their equally anxious family members or care-givers. Crowded waiting rooms where each chair was filled and refilled with new occupants every few minutes.

I couldn’t think of a worse place to carry Covid-19 virus. Except maybe to my long term care homes. Full of the vulnerable elderly, all of whom are much loved by their families and us, the staff. A group of caring and hard-working staff who also have families and perhaps elderly parents. These are people who can’t just decide to “socially distance” themselves. Our residents need to be cared for – hands-on personal care. The restrictions on visitors and group activities is going to take it’s toll on their spirits as well. It’s going to be a tough few months ahead.

I decided to cancel my trip and stay put. It sucked!

This is the first time that I have faced any type of public health concern as a person of less-than-stellar health. I feel so well that I forget that I am a cancer survivor, that I’m almost 60, that I have less than normal immune markers, that I work in a very vulnerable population. As I look around at my family and friends, I realize that there are several of us with conditions (beyond just our ages) that put us at increased risk of a bad response to the virus. Heart issues, cancer survivors, auto-immune issues, type 2 diabetes, obesity – we’re not as robust a group as we used to be.

Canada’s approach to this health crisis is admirable and timely. They are not waffling or ignoring the science and the experiences of other countries. Basic hygiene such as washing hands, coughing into your elbow, and staying home when you are sick are just common sense. What is going to be much harder is the concept of “social distancing”. Keeping yourself in a bubble of 1-2 metres from others, staying away from social and group situations – that goes directly against human nature. We are tribal beings, pack animals by nature. Personally, I’m a hugger, and a hand-shaker. And I touch my face all the time – swipe at the itch in my nose, adjust my glasses, absently rub at my pursed lips when thinking. All the time… This “social distancing thing is going to be hard!

I know that we will eventually get the Covid-19 virus in my little city, and it may get into my nursing homes. I expect that I will get symptoms at some time, then be done and have my immunity established – hopefully. In the meantime, I am going to do everything that I can to delay that happening, “flattening the curve”, as the new buzzword goes. And I sure as hell don’t intend to be the Typhoid Mary that brings Covid-19 to those that I love and respect and care deeply about.

What can you do? Besides the obvious – hand hygiene, cough hygiene, self-isolating when symptomatic, and social distancing – you can plan to stay as healthy as you possibly can, making yourself as bulletproof as can be. That involves a clean diet with mostly unprocessed meats, lots of fresh vegetables, healthy non-industrial fats. It also means making sure that to have adequate and great sleep, get moderate exercise – preferably outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and don’t let yourself get run down. All the things that we should all be doing all the time.

Stay healthy. Look after each other and yourselves. Show love and compassion even while maintaining a social or physical distance. Don’t hoard – instead share of your bounty. And don’t look for blame – we’re all in this together. A planet-changing, culture-changing, economy-changing, very interesting time to be alive.


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