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How the Younger Generation Is Coping With Coronavirus

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Published on April 13, 2020

Key Takeaways

How are millennials dealing with isolation caused by the coronavirus? Aaron Poor and Ruth Schorr, two young adults impacted by chronic conditions, share strategies to help others face life changes due to lockdown measures. 

Watch as they discuss ways to maintain personal connections while practicing social distancing, and the collective responsibility to stay at home; if not for you, for your parents, grandparents or others who may be more vulnerable.

[Due to extreme load on our website and Zoom platform, viewers may experience a time delay between the audio and video of the interview - please note the transcript can be read below.]

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Transcript | How the Younger Generation Is Coping With Coronavirus

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Recorded March 26, 2020

Aaron Poor:

Hello, Patient Power. Welcome to another video in our ongoing coronavirus content. We've talked a lot and covered a bunch of topics relating to different types of cancer. We brought in some experts to talk about what cancer patients are facing. My name is Aaron Poor, I'm a Patient Power employee, and I'm joined today by the great, the wonderful Ruth Schorr. We're going to cover a conversation that we've been seeing in the news. We're both young adults, and we've been seeing some people our age think we're invincible. Some people think that—they really are worried about the virus, and they really are worried about how we can stop the spread.

It's something that's been impacting us. Personally, Ruthie and I were talking the other week, and so we thought we'd come together and share some of our strategies, share some of our tactics that we've been using to help self-isolate, get through isolation and yeah. We're happy to have Ruthie here all the way from Miami, Florida, and I am in Brooklyn, New York. Ruthie, how are you doing? How's the weather in Florida? How easy is it to stay inside?

Ruth Schorr:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me and for asking me to be a part of this conversation. I think it's very easy to fall down the rabbit hole in the news and social media, and both of us being impacted by cancer, being impacted by chronic conditions, we're trying to navigate this to the best of our ability and give information to our peers, so I thank you for inviting me to be a part of this conversation.

So, life in Miami is good. Inside the walls of my apartment, thankfully staying safe and at this point staying healthy. I live with a chronic condition called celiac disease, and I've been impacted. My dad has been living with two types of cancer for almost my entire life. And so when the climate started to change a little bit around this situation and people started to understand the severity of the situation, it was frightening to me personally. And I feel like I've done everything I can here in Miami, even though it's beautiful and sunny outside, to stay inside and do my part to contribute to what we need to do to deal with this really unimaginable situation. So that's kind of where I'm at. How is it for you in New York right now?

Aaron Poor:

New York is good. I moved to this city approximately two months ago, so right in time for a pandemic to start. I've settled into my apartment. And folks watching this might not know, but Ruthie and I go way back. We were on a T-ball team together as small children. And while we were hitting balls, I was overcoming acute lymphoblastic leukemia that chemotherapy, ended up needing a kidney transplant. I got a kidney transplant in 2011.

So really for the last decade I've been dealing with a compromised immune system, and it's scary when they have the list of all the people who need to be really prepared and really aware of what's going on to always see that label that I have towards the end. Yeah, but didn't stop me from moving. I got set up at a hospital over here, and I've been getting some blood work done just to make sure everything's looking good. So yeah, it's been a good challenge, I think we've all found.

Thinking about our day-to-day, you said that you're in Miami, you're staying in your apartment. One of the things that we've heard everywhere, CDC, our mayors, probably your mayor, I know ours is getting on the horn a lot, is self-isolating. And I know you, you know me, we're very social people. We love talking and getting out and trying new things around our cities. When you talk about connecting with friends, connecting with family, how have you been able to maintain some of those relationships?

Ruth Schorr:

Yeah, absolutely. I feel thankful that we're living in the age we are now where we can connect, you in New York and me in Miami, and we're here on video with one another talking in real time, and I've tried to outside of just the business sense of things be able to apply that to social situations.

I've been scheduling time with friends for virtual happy hours, and me and my family actually got together all kind of Brady Bunch style on Zoom video conferencing this past weekend, and it was just great. We had my family from all over the country. My sweet grandmother, she said, "How do I see everybody?" And we taught her about how to do it on gallery view, so she could see everybody talking. And I think that's been really important to me is not just talking to people on the phone but actually seeing people. It's the best we can do right now, and so I'm thankful that we have that.

And I think I've been using it also too as an opportunity to get in touch with those people and talk to those people who I haven't had a chance to catch up with in a while and say, "We're always so busy, we're always running around. But if you're home right now, which I hope you are, and I'm home, let's find a time, we can video chat, we can play a game, we can do something," so that's been something that's super helpful for me.

I think the other thing that I've really been trying to do is just as I'm taking it as seriously as I can myself is encouraging my peers to do the same by saying, "Hey, can we schedule a time to do this, or do you want to do this workout class or watch this show, and then we can talk about it later?" And providing examples or activities that I can do in conjunction with people even from afar to encourage each other through something that's slightly difficult or very difficult for people like us who do like to meet up with friends and be social, and I'm trying to just keep that constant open line of communication going so that it doesn't seem quite as lonely because isolation, the word even itself is very intimidating. And I think can spark a lot of anxiety, and for me, a way that I'm managing that as well I'll just say is by, when I can, getting some fresh air, even if it's just opening my window or going for a walk just around my neighborhood, of course, keeping social distance if I see anyone, and things like that. So that's kind of where I'm at. How are you managing?

Aaron Poor:

Yeah, I am not a much of a scheduler. I know that that is sometimes common with people our age, but it has been important and fun to see in our family email, we're all dialing in when we can FaceTime and play this game called Codenames. Everyone's saying, "Here are the board games I have. Which ones do we want to play?” There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but we dialed it down, and 3:00 PM on Friday we're going to get together on our phones and do something fun together.

So yeah, coming up with games, I know there are some apps. Some of my friends back in college were looking at different apps that you can have your FaceTime face and then play a round of poker or play some Uno or something. There are a couple of fun games that are meshing this technology together. So that's been fun, and yeah, never a bad idea to get some friends around and make a mock happy hour.

I love going for walks. Obviously can't be too careful, so I've been going a little early when the peak times aren't, but really getting around outside—no one said don't go for a walk outside. Everyone has said, "Get exercise as long as you're doing it responsibly." Yeah, I think it's been a new reality, but in a lot of ways I liked what you were saying that we've been doing this for a long time.

I can think back to being able to re-create some of these games. The app is like—there's one called Poker Face, which you can feel a lot like you're playing poker with a bunch of your friends around the table at home. Everyone's shooting a little fun talk here and there, keeping each other engaged. And then like Words With Friends has really made a comeback in my life. I thought that they were all done with that, but you get a real rush when you're doing some of these high word scores, high point scores. And then, I don't know, Chess With Friends isn't bad either. Maybe you and I can start a game after this.

Ruth Schorr:

That sounds great.

Aaron Poor:

I don't think they have a T-ball app yet, but we could figure something out.

Ruth Schorr:

We'll talk to somebody about it. We'll talk to some people.

Aaron Poor:

Yeah. So we've been talking about our friends and our family and how really, I take this pretty personally for my health, and you have your health issues. And even if it's not us, I liked what you said when we were talking the other day. We're one degree away from someone who's very vulnerable. Really anyone it feels like in the country is one degree away from someone who's vulnerable to this disease, and that alone is a good motivation for me to say even if I'm washing my hands and I'm staying away from people, it's important to, I like what you said, advocate and talk to other people about this is an important issue, not only for me and my grandma, but grandmas around the world.

Ruth Schorr:

Right. Yeah, I think to that point I would just say like with, for example, my dad is—I think about the fact that for myself I want to do what I can here and impose it, challenge other people to do the same thing. Because maybe I don't live in the same place as my dad where I could put him at risk, but there are other people who I want to accept that social responsibility and say, "Hey, this is someone's family, this is somebody who's important, this is someone that I need to be careful of."

Millennials especially I think sometimes get a bad rep for being self-involved, being very just unaware of the impact of what we do, but I think that one of the positive things that we have is by being connected, sometimes what feels like overly connected, in the world that we live in right now is that some of the social pressure can honestly be good. And I say that specifically in this situation, because it wasn't even two weeks ago that we still saw people going to the park and meeting up with friends, like social distancing but not really taking it seriously on the level that we need it to be taken on.

And it's come to light that's just not acceptable at this point. We have to hold ourselves to a high enough standard, and we have to hold other people to a high enough standard, because like we discussed, it really is just one degree of separation. And I think that everybody around us can feel it because if it's not your parents, maybe it's your best friend's parents. And if it's not your grandma, maybe it's your sister-in-law's grandma or your whoever it might be, or at school, the teacher who teaches your kids, whatever it is.

So I think we have a moral responsibility to do everything that we can to alleviate some of the pressure and the scared feelings that we have and other people have about how impactful this could be on our life, because the reality is that people are dying, and this is something that we need to take seriously. I would never hope that it would take until you knew someone that this deeply affected for you to take action, and that's why we need to do that now.

I will say that I've had to put a smokescreen a little bit on some of the noise that I'm getting through social media and things like that, because some of it is just not valid. Some of it is just incorrect, and so I think that referring to things like the CDC website, like WHO, other agencies that we know have the most recent information and correct information is where we as young adults should really be turning and using as a cornerstone of the information we're doing rather than trying to piece it together from Twitter, from Instagram, from this celebrity's live video, whatever it is.

Aaron Poor:

I know at the start I had this feeling that "Oh, I'm getting this update from my brother's co-worker's dad's friend who works at the government," and that was a lot of fear-mongering. So it was good when the government started saying, "Here are the instructions that we need to do." I know that as an employee I definitely know that Patient Power is a great source to come to, and I've been following the conversations we've been having, Andrew and Esther have been having with doctors.

I think for me it was important to reach out to my doctor and get that actual insight from him. We don't want to send to everyone to a hospital right now, but definitely using the health app, MyChart is what they call it. And next week I have a telehealth video chat with the doctor just so he can keep giving me updates. But yeah, being able to find the resources that I have previously trusted to get good information I think goes a long way in this time to say, "Am I getting stuff that's going to help me make safe and responsible actions, and is it stuff that is going to keep me informed?" Because those are the key things that you can get one or the other. If it gets out of balance, I can get...

Ruth Schorr:

...yeah. No, absolutely. And I think us absorbing that information and being aware and ahead of the curve on digesting that information is super important, and then passing it to peers and to family and other people who also need reliable information. I mean, obviously long-time Patient Power user, viewer, all of these things, and I have friends who are asking me this information. When I know I can give them the Patient Power site, I can direct them to the CDC, I can direct them to other places that I feel like I can give them reliable information, that empowers me both just as member of society and then a patient and then also someone who's concerned for my family's health and wellness.

So I think, as we say on Patient Power, is that knowledge is power, and I really feel like in this situation, especially when there's so much noise, it's very easy to get bogged down by it. And having a clear idea of where you can find reliable information is so valuable, so I'm very thankful for that.

Aaron Poor:

Yeah. You and I have some good resources. We've built them, and we're happy to share them with people.

Ruth Schorr:

Yeah, absolutely.

Aaron Poor:

We've talked a lot about connecting with others and being able to see how we relate to the news and get that information. Let's dive a little internal, into our brains. How have you been? I mean, this comes with so much uncertainty. I know that I get some anxiety about getting sick. You mentioned doing some in-home exercise or maybe some meditations, so what kind of strategies have you been using for connecting with yourself?

Ruth Schorr:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that, like I said, I've been trying to do some at-home exercises, and I think that I mentioned to you this before. What I will say about that is I think that's another one where it's really easy to put a lot of expectations on yourself if you're absorbing information like, "Oh, everybody's doing these at-home workouts." For me personally, it's a stress relief, and I'm thankful. But I've woken up a few days where I'm feeling a little too anxious, or I'm feeling a little sore, and I just don't push it, and I think it's about being realistic with yourself about what makes you feel good. So that's definitely one thing.

Yoga is another thing that really helps me, and one thing I love about that is that I recently got my mom into yoga as well, so it's fun. Even across the country, we can talk about how much we both love it, and it helps us, and so that's another thing that connects us that has been making me feel really good.

I've also been journaling, which for me, just monitoring how I'm feeling physically, mentally, what I'm doing, getting it all out on paper feels really good sometimes. That's an exercise that I've really learned to value. In the beginning, it's really challenging to sit down and say, "What do I write about?" But when you just check in with yourself, that's been something that's super helpful for me.

And then I would say the one other thing is just feeding myself correctly, which I think it's very easy to want to just spin out a little bit about it. We're at home. It's easy to eat junk food. It's easy to snack or anxious snack, whatever it is. I know that I've done that before. I'm working really hard not to do that now, but I just know that when I'm getting that exercise and eating right and I'm getting to bed at a reasonable time that I just overall feel less anxious,. And I think in a situation that factually is anxiety-inducing, I think it's important to not fight the anxiety and rather find ways to manage and mitigate it in a healthy way, and so that's what I've been trying to do.

Aaron Poor:

Yeah. Thank you for sharing those. I'm getting into this meditation thing. I use an app called Liberate, which has a bunch of free five, 10 or 20 minute meditations, so if I'm not feeling going super long, I can do something quick and just for me it helps. I like what you said about if it feels good, do it, and don't push yourself to do something that you don't need to do, and everything else is going haywire.

So, yeah, I've been finding meditation to be really helpful, and even if I go in being like—sitting alone with your thoughts can sometimes be even heavier. But getting through if it's five minutes has helped me a lot to be like, "Okay, that was five minutes. I can handle that. I can go on."

I've been doodling a lot. I'm a doodler by nature, and writing is good too. I've been doing a little bit of writing. I didn't think of myself as a cleaner, but having a little more downtime, I've been cleaning the house. Getting things looking good helps me too.

Ruth Schorr:

It's very relaxing. When you're in your space, you want your space to be clean. It feels nice, so I understand that.

Aaron Poor:

I might get a little into an organizational wormhole, but for the most part, getting dust out and wiping stuff down feels good to me.

Yeah, I enjoyed thinking about how we've been keeping in touch with ourselves. We talked about how we're keeping connected with people all around the country, all around the world with these real awesome technologies. And then the last thing that I was thinking about, you and I, we're doing our day-to-day stuff, we're scheduling times with friends, but I know that you're taking on some big challenges too. We're thinking about the future. Can you talk about your next scheme coming up?

Ruth Schorr:

Yeah, absolutely. So one thing that I've been facing that I think a lot of people have been facing and a lot of people in the cancer community and people who are associated with people in the cancer community deal with often, not just in the situation of a pandemic, maybe in everyday life living with cancer is that uncertainty. And I think that for me, I'm soon going to be moving across the country. It's up in the air when that's taking place. But what I'm trying to do for myself is be as pragmatic as possible in the process and know that I'm doing everything that I can to keep myself safe, to keep my family safe, to make decisions and plan for the future in a positive way without putting too much pressure on myself, and I think that's a skill that I definitely learned through my dad's diagnosis with cancers.

You can hope for the best, and you can plan for the best, and you have to be able to mitigate and face every issue that might arise, that doesn't go exactly to plan. I think it would probably be a little bit easier to move across the country if there wasn't a global pandemic going on, but we're going to figure out a way to do it, so that's kind of where I'm at.

Aaron Poor:

And does it give you comfort to have this big thing? I mean, there's going to be a day when this is over. Can you talk about having these things out in the future?

Ruth Schorr:

Yeah, absolutely. I do think having things to look forward to is huge, and honestly on a large scale, things like moving, things like when I will be able to see my family again, things like that I feel like do propel me forward and give me hope for the future and give me some mental steam to be able to move forward. And know, like you said, that this will be over. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week, and I think the best way, having those things to look forward to has been huge, and then building these smaller milestones along the way of scheduling things with friends and scheduling things for myself has been huge in adjusting to the way that this process is going to happen.

Aaron Poor:

You made me think of another video we have on the site where someone was talking about just starting their chemotherapy treatment, and they knew it was going to be this long process. And they talked to their doctor and they said, "I need short, manageable goals that I can set just to accomplish something day after day or week after week," and that has its applications when we're facing this long period of uncertainty.

You're planning your move across the country, I just did this thing, and pandemic aside, it was a big lift to be like, "Okay, I want to make sure I have a hospital, I want to make sure I have a job and a place to live," and some of these bigger tasks that are really motivating when I can break them down into digestible things. It feels good to be out here and to be in a new spot even if it's a new 10 by 10.

But yeah, I think you said something about having something to look forward to is good motivation to keep doing the day-to-day stuff when that feels like it's adding up.

Ruth Schorr:

Yes, absolutely.

Aaron Poor:

I wanted to, as we talked about, play one quick game.

Ruth Schorr:

Sure.

Aaron Poor:

We were doing this the other day. The game is called—and this is good for all the viewers. They can practice it with someone else on their next FaceTime. The game's called Say the Same Word, and so you and I are going to just say any random word that comes to our minds on three, and then after that, and we'll do this in practice, but we'll say the word that we think connects those two. Are you game for it?

Ruth Schorr:

I'm ready. I'm ready.

Aaron Poor:

All right, let's start. Three, two, one. Video.

Ruth Schorr:

Plant.

Aaron Poor:

Plane?

Ruth Schorr:

Plant.

Aaron Poor:

Plant. Okay. I said, "Video," you said, "Plant." Those aren't super connected but like...

Ruth Schorr:

You said, "Vivio?"

Aaron Poor:

Video, like the video chat that we are on.

Ruth Schorr:

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Aaron Poor:

Okay, video and plant. Okay, ready?

Ruth Schorr:

Does it have to be one word?

Aaron Poor:

I'm thinking of one word. It better be one word. Video and plant. We have multiple rounds. 

Ruth Schorr:

Okay. Okay, okay, I'm ready. I'm ready.

Aaron Poor:

Okay. Three, two, one. Documentary.

Ruth Schorr:

Documentary.

Aaron Poor:

Oh! No way! Wow!

Ruth Schorr:

That was good.

Aaron Poor:

That was good. I do this with my twin brother, and we do not think as quickly in line as you and I do.

Ruth Schorr:

So just to recap for the audience.

Aaron Poor:

We started with you said, "Plant," and I said, "Video," and then just from those two things, we mind-linked and both came up with documentary. That might be the fastest round of Say the Same Word I've ever seen. Definitely a testament to our preparation for the global pandemic and how we will thrive in the near and far future.

Thank you so much, Ruthie. We talked about how we're connecting with others. We talked about how we're staying in touch with ourselves and being able to use big goals and small tangible actions to get through this thing and why it's so serious. If it's not for us, it's for a person one degree away from us. I'm really happy to get your brain on the camera today and take your tips, and I hope everyone else who's watching this at home will take some good lessons and know that young adults are committed to taking on this crisis and getting through with it as efficiently and as seriously and as safely as possible. So thank you so much for joining us. As we say at Patient Power, knowledge is the best medicine.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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