CHIPPEWA FALLS — Annette Hunt has been out of her house just once in nearly two weeks.
Hunt, 53, of Chippewa Falls, was diagnosed with breast cancer last July. While she is slated to have surgery next month to remove the tumor, she is fearful of going outside because she has been taking oral chemotherapy since September.
“Unfortunately, the drugs put me at a compromised immunity,” Hunt said. “It makes me very tired.”
Hunt, who co-owns Chippewa Valley Financial Services with her husband, Dennis, had been driving daily to her office in Menomonie since she joined the firm a year ago. Her fatigue made her stay in a hotel room rather than make the drive home.
As news of COVID-19 spread, Hunt decided on March 16 to no longer go to work, and instead work from home.
“I came home with the chills and a sore throat, and I said, ‘this is too high risk for me,’” she said. “I can’t risk catching it. I knew I was the most vulnerable in the house, and that’s a hard realization to come to.”
Hunt did leave the house once — she drove to a grocery store, and one of her sons went in to buy food. When he got back in the car, he used anti-bacterial lotion, and he sat in the back seat. When they got home, he changed his clothes.
Since then, friends have stepped up to buy the food.
“A number of people have reached out to me, offered to get us groceries, which is a godsend, because they know I don’t want to be out,” Hunt said.
Some people have dropped off food on her doorstep so they don’t have to enter the home.
Dennis Hunt said he will sit across the table from Annette for dinner but otherwise keeps his distance.
“I literally haven’t touched her in three weeks,” Dennis Hunt said. “She is even sleeping in a different bedroom. I bet I haven’t been within three feet of her. It’s to protect her. Everyone has to sacrifice a little bit right now.”
As she works or relaxes in a different room, they’ll communicate via Facetime.
“It’s not a lot different than my military deployment times,” he said.
IT workers were quickly able to set up an office for her in the home.
“We decided two-and-a-half weeks ago, when it became known the virus was spreading, we knew we had to take action, not just for her, but our collective office,” Dennis Hunt said.
Another accountant in the office also is working entirely from home, he added. The workers set up a dedicated line to the house.
Annette shuts the door during the day and goes to work.
“We’re automated enough, I can view documents that have been scanned,” she said. “And of course, we are practicing social distancing there (in the office) too.”
The family has left her alone while she works on taxes. While the state and federal government have pushed back the filing date, Hunt said people who anticipate they are getting refunds still want their returns filed immediately, so the new filing date hasn’t slowed down her work.
“I feel blessed I can have this kind of a setup,” she said.
At night, the Hunts, with their two children and a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic, have sat and watched movies together, but everyone still keeps their distance from her. They talked about sending the foreign exchange student home, but decided he was safer here.
“We’re forced to have this family time, which I cherish,” Annette Hunt said.
Hunt had a routine mammogram last summer; she had no symptoms of cancer. She was surprised when she got the diagnosis, but she was relieved to hear it is a highly treatable form of cancer.
“Thankfully, I have a slow-growing cancer, but they want to get it out,” she said. “Knowing it’s still in me is bothersome.”
She has lost some hair but otherwise feels good; the oral chemotherapy is less concentrated, but she takes it over a longer period of time.
Hunt said she is open about telling others about her condition, largely because she wants to make sure women have their regular checkups. A friend, Jen Theisen, did a short write-up on her condition recently for her magazine, 5ive for women.
“Annette is a God-fearing family-oriented community leader,” Theisen said Friday. “She’s an inspiration. When I heard that Annette was fighting cancer, I thought to myself, ‘Cancer has no idea what it got intself into.’”
Overall, Hunt said she isn’t minding the solitude of working alone.
“As I get older, I tend to avoid crowds anyway,” she said. “I’m enjoying cocooning with my family.”