A story by Beth in Scarborough from 2020
On Feb 3, 2020, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I got the call while on a road trip to Georgia with my husband. Since the doctor advised that this was an aggressive cancer, we cut our trip short and returned home to start treatment as quickly as possible.
On February 20 I had surgery to remove the tumor, and weekly chemotherapy treatments were scheduled to begin on March 23. Coincidentally, this was also the date that COVID-19 cases were projected to begin overwhelming our healthcare system.
One of the most serious side effects of chemotherapy is immune system suppression. My doctors made it clear that I need to avoid all potential exposure to any source of illness. Since mid-March I have stayed away from all public buildings, only entering medical buildings for scheduled appointments, and have worn a mask for all those visits.
For several weeks I made a point to get out for a walk whenever possible, comfortable in the knowledge that Maine offers lots of outdoor space to spread out and keep our neighbors safe. One day I was walking on the beach with a friend. Another group of people were out with their off-leash dog. The dog ran up to my friend, jumped up, and licked her on the mouth. To make matters worse, the dog’s owner had to come into our space to retrieve the dog. I decided at that moment that I would wear a mask whenever outside my home, and would ask dog owners not to let their dogs near me.
The following week I was on the same beach with my friend, wearing a mask. A jogger was coming past us with two dogs off leash, and the dogs started heading for us. I put my hand up to get the attention of the jogger and said, “Excuse me...”
The jogger then ran directly up to me with a crazed expression on his face, shouting “Excuse me! Excuse me!” within two feet of my face. I quickly turned my back to him and started walking away. He followed me and wiped his hands all over the back of my jacket, then continued to jog down the beach.
I shouted after him, “Hey a$$hole, what’s wrong with you? I’m a cancer patient!”
He turned back to me and shouted, “Mind your own f**king business!”
I was really shaken up. I’m doing my best to take care of myself in a very uncertain time, and this man assaulted me simply because I was wearing a mask in public. I have barely left my house since. I expected more compassion from my fellow Mainers. I know the vast majority does not support this man’s actions, but I can’t take a chance that I will have another experience like this one.