Family in self-isolation since June offers perspective, advice for staying at home

| April 8, 2020 | 0 Comments

Cassandra Brashier reads with her children, from left, Cecilia, Gianna and Joseph, at their home in Rosemount. COURTESY BRASHIER FAMILY

Cassandra and Mike Brashier of St. Joseph in Rosemount have been living in self-isolation since June, when they learned their 3-year-old daughter, Cecilia, had leukemia.

For the last nine months, they have maintained their financial planning jobs via computer and telephone. They shop at odd hours to avoid crowds. When Mass was available, before the novel coronavirus pandemic had everyone staying home, they attended separately and sat apart from the rest of the congregation. They wash their hands carefully when coming home and avoid relatives who are ill. Few people come to the house, and they generally don’t go out. Their two older children, Gianna, 8, and Joseph, 5, are no longer at St. Agnes School in St. Paul, but are being taught at home. They have had to give up music, gymnastics, swimming and jujitsu.

This past year, the family missed festivities on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Their experience is very much like what people are being asked to do now to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the respiratory illness it causes, COVID-19. There is one difference, the Brashiers insist: They chose to live this way. Doctors told them they could go on pretty much as usual, but to give their daughter the best chance they could as she undergoes chemotherapy and her immune system is compromised, and to simplify their busy lives, they chose to live in self-isolation.

Now, everyone in Minnesota and many across the country and most of the world have been involuntarily stopped in their tracks, abiding by advice from public health officials to stay home. Many are worried about their health, have children home from schools that are closed, have lost jobs or been furloughed — all difficulties acknowledged by the Brashiers, who work with those issues every day through their jobs, worries about their daughter and their own home life.

“You have fear coming from all angles, with all this uncertainty,” said Mike, 44. “Basically, we have over the last nine or 10 months been faced with many of the same struggles people just now are entering into.”

One piece of advice they offer: Expect anger, resentment, hardship. But offer it to God and help each other through it. And savor the blessings God invariably offers in the midst of the trials.

“There was a period of transition when we had to get used to life slowed down,” Cassandra said. “It was really valuable. There was a way to do it. I could just sit and pray or just focus on a rosary, all by myself. Before, I was driving, in the car, half-distracted.”

On a practical level, it’s been hard for Gianna and Joseph to see other children out playing and unable to join them, the Brashiers said. They are young, but they enjoyed music and dance and self-defense classes. They were just starting to loosen some of the restrictions as Cecilia grew in strength, but now the coronavirus is a danger to everyone.

“Even if one person gets it, and gives it back to Cecilia, or even anything, the seasonal flu,” it could put her health in danger, Mike said.

The Brashiers are grateful Cecilia is doing well, but they remember sleepless nights of not knowing what was next. They’ve been told Cecilia has a 90% chance of beating her particular kind of leukemia, but realize 10% do not.

“You can talk percentages all day long, but at 90 percent, one in 10 don’t make it,” Mike said. “It’s been helpful for us to have an element of faith, because we have to put it in (God’s) hands.”

Cassandra, 38, remembers talking about the odds. It was when she abandoned it all to God.

“At that moment, I knew it was in God’s hands,” she said. “That was a freeing moment, when I stopped thinking about probabilities. We’d follow protocol and it was going to be OK. No matter what. It’s given me clearance to live in the moment.”

Mike said his moment of giving the worry over to God came after a period of restless nights and nerve-wracking days, driven by uncertainty and doubt and a strong desire to somehow “fix” everything.

“It’s not unlike what’s happening now,” in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, he said. “Your entire world is upside down. You try to minimize all the germs. You’re so busy, but not really connected. Finally, someone said, ‘You need to go into a church.’”

He found himself at perpetual adoration at Holy Trinity in South St. Paul.

“I was able to just let it all out in prayer. Completely abandon myself and just concentrate on (Jesus).”

“We are not in control,” Mike said. “His plans are so much greater than our own.”

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Category: Local News