This piece was made by Melissa Fuller, a mother and registered nurse in rural Saskatchewan. For more information on CBC’s first person stories, please See FAQ.
I feel lonely.
And not just because of physical isolation to avoid COVID-19. As society embraces the lack of any government restrictions, I’m left feeling like I don’t appreciate here as a registered nurse, mother of a child too young to be vaccinated, and a woman recovering from cancer.
My husband and I have listed our home for sale and are ready to leave Saskatchewan.
In 2016, I got a job as a registered nurse in rural Saskatchewan and we moved here from Toronto six years ago with great expectations.
We were drawn to a different kind of life we saw when we visited some friends. Things cost less, they pollute less, and although everyone lives far away from each other, they seem closer together. It was a fantasy to find a place where you could feel your own importance despite being so dwarfed by earth and sky.
In 2019, several years after the transition, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
I had successful surgery but developed lymphedema, a condition that can be treated but is getting worse. There were days at work where my legs would swell to double their size and the pain became hard to bear. I had appointments sometimes twice a week that included three to four hours of driving. Constant travel was his new affliction that made life difficult.
Dealing with cancer was really lonely, especially being so far from my family. Then the epidemic started and we felt very weak. My son’s history of asthma as well as my chronic illness prompted us to take all public health measures, and then some.
I had returned to work but found bedside nursing stressful due to my debilitating condition. As I struggled through a haze of pain, fatigue, and daily treatments for hours on end just to work in the health care system, I was increasingly frustrated with how this health care system had been expanded beyond its limits.
Throughout the Delta wave, it has become clear to me that the Saskatchewan government has been disrespectful of the work that my colleagues and I have been doing throughout the pandemic.
At every turn, they seemed to downplay the severity of the problem despite the increasing number of hospitalizations. Experts were begging to be heard and were ignored. Treatments and treatments have been canceled and delayed.
Prime Minister Scott Mo’s speech in support of the “truck drivers’ rallies” in late January was insulting to me. I’ve never heard him rave about healthcare workers like that. He also made the false claim that vaccination does not reduce transmission and pledged to remove proof of vaccination requirements.
I found myself increasingly disappointed by the incompetence of our provincial leaders. I could see that their strong decisions and their break with science had an effect on real people.
I am sick myself and have significant health care needs. I am waiting for surgery for my condition that will change the way I live for the rest of my life. I could sense the alignment between my pain and the pain of other patients whose needs were much greater. Where we used to suffer from our pain, we now also suffer from a growing sense of abandonment.
I love being a nurse because I connect with people and help them restore their dignity amid the massive injustice that disease brings. I use my skills to relieve their suffering, and my attention to let them know that they are more than just a drug-pumping and sampling body.
Many people won’t truly understand what sickness and recovery entails until their time of vulnerability comes. I feel frustrated and hopeless watching the healthcare policy that prioritizes minor inconveniences over real and major suffering. I love being a nurse and hate that the pleas of my profession have been completely ignored during this pandemic.
And now I feel like I’m not in the right place here.
Every step is a risk. My family and I have traded the comforts and amazing real estate gains for a different kind of life in Saskatchewan. Now we feel rejected by a government whose vision of health care seems bent on catching the pattern of failures we’ve seen in America.
The future undoubtedly holds many crises for Saskatchewan. I firmly believe that their confrontation with an anti-science government will alienate the professionals needed to solve it.
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