SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — For many this year, it has taken months of planning to pull off spending a few days with family (safely) over the Thanksgiving holiday. For Kristen Hoffner and her sister Amanda Schnoebelen, it means navigating through COVID-19 from hundreds of miles away.
Amanda’s two-year-old son, Greyson, was diagnosed with leukemia in April, one month after COVID-19 fully hit the U.S.
“A cancer diagnosis is awful and scary on its own, but when you pair it with all the challenges of the pandemic, it’s hard to keep my nephew safe and support my family all at the same time,” says Kristen.
The two sisters say holidays this year would have been a challenge with or without a pandemic.
“We can’t risk it because his immune system is at rock bottom,” says Amanda.
Hoffner is a Missouri State University graduate, who now lives in St. Louis. She says in order to see her nephew Greyson for Thanksgiving, she and her fiancé had to self-impose a strict two-week quarantine.
“That is a full lockdown, not seeing anyone or going anywhere. That can be really challenging to put yourself in the situation where you can do that.”
For a graduate student like her, it meant leaving her classroom assignment and moving to virtual schooling for a majority of November.
While she enjoys Thanksgiving with her sister and nephew in Dallas, her parents will be preparing for their quarantine before visiting for Christmas.
“We decided just me and my fiancé would come for Thanksgiving, and then the rest of my family would come for Christmas, so I won’t be able to come for Christmas. That was kind of a hard- I’ve never been away from my family during Christmas, so that’s just one sacrifice we’re going to have to make.”
She says it’s put a strain on her relationships. While friends are continuing their daily lives, hers had been put on hold to be able to spend an entire week with Greyson.
Kristen says despite challenges, it’s worth the wait.
“He gets really excited and he runs into my arms…I love him so much and it’s been hard being separated from him. I’m taking it all in and trying to get all the snuggles and love that I can this week.”
Meanwhile Amanda says one positive of the COVID-19 pandemic, is that is allowed for more opportunities to celebrate the holidays safely, like drive-thru activities and socially distanced events.
In a normal year, she says holiday crowds would have forced her family to stay at home.
“We’ve been sheltering in place, the only place we go – because we have to go – is the hospital every week.”
Amanda says only one parent is allowed at Greyson’s appointments. She hopes her story will remind people every new case of COVID-19 has an impact on strangers.
“Every number added to the list of positive cases affects family’s like ours because that’s just that much longer until both my husband and I can both be in the hospital with my son. It’s just important to remember things like that.”