Illustration: Sam Hester

Käthe Lemon: Testing positive was a wake-up call

Even when you think you’re doing your best, it spreads.’

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To close out 2020, we're bringing you 20 stories from an extraordinary year. Doctors. Teachers. Entrepreneurs. Activists. These are the stories of ordinary Albertans who were changed by circumstances beyond their control—and what they did to make their worlds, and ours, a little better.



This past October, Kӓthe Lemon got the news we’re all dreading right now. A colleague emailed to say that Lemon had been exposed to COVID-19. While she didn’t feel sick, she promptly got tested and began isolating.

Lemon was positive for COVID-19, despite not coming in close contact with the person in question. Thankfully, everyone in her bubble tested negative.

All of this coincided with her busiest time at work.

As the editor-in-chief of Avenue magazine, Lemon was in charge of its Top 40 under 40 launch. Had she not been notified about her exposure, she likely would not have gotten tested as she never developed any common COVID-19 symptoms.

“I probably would have thought I was just burnt out,” she notes.

“The thing is, it’s very disruptive and it’s exponential. If I had held a staff meeting, even if no one else got sick, our whole team would have had to isolate.”

COVID really took everything out of me.

Käthe Lemon

For five days after testing positive, Lemon felt fine. “I was trumpeting that I was asymptomatic, and my quarantine was a reading holiday. But what I really was, was late-onset symptomatic.”

When she did fall ill, she was completely exhausted. “COVID really took everything out of me. I also had unrelenting headaches and hives, which wasn’t fun.”

It took four weeks before she recovered.

“In so many ways, I was really fortunate,” Lemon described. “I had somewhere to quarantine. My partner is the primary caregiver for our kids right now. I didn’t give it to anybody else. My recovery was comparatively fast. The worst part for me was that I could have exposed my family to a potentially deadly disease.”

“It was a wake-up call,” she said. “Even when you think you’re doing your best, it spreads.”

Reflecting on 2020, Lemon notes that “it’s almost easier to list the things that haven’t changed.”

Working at the city’s lifestyle magazine, “every single thing we write about has changed,” she said.

It’s really hard for a city to have a sense of cohesion when people don’t see each other, but I remain hopeful.

Käthe Lemon

“Calgary is particularly dynamic in how things move and change, but now the pace is even faster. With everything changing around us, our readers need information. What hasn’t changed is we are still working to serve our readers.”

As for 2021, Lemon hopes that people pull together. “It’s part of our social contract; we are responsible for other people,” she said.

“It’s really hard for a city to have a sense of cohesion when people don’t see each other, but I remain hopeful.”

But hope shouldn't blind us from inequity.

“It’s important to acknowledge that while we are going through this together, some of us are going through it in much more dangerous ways,” Lemon emphasized.

“I hope the silver lining is while people are sitting at home with this extra time, they consider the inequalities that exist and decide to do something to help.”

Colleen Seto is a writer and editor born and raised in Calgary. Her work has appeared in Avenue Calgary, WestJet Magazine, Today's Parent and National Geographic Books.

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