How COVID-19 Is Affecting Cancer Patients

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Meredith Mears, Reporter

As some of you may know, my mother has had Stage Four Metastatic Breast Cancer for a year now. My mother has struggled with the ups and downs of her treatments. In September, my mother had to go off chemo because her chemo caused her to have emphysema. This just shows you how her condition can change at any rate.

Just like in September, when COVID-19 made way to our state, it threw another curve ball with my mom’s condition. It all started at the beginning of March with my mom’s oncologist and family medicine doctor both agreed for her to stay home and to only leave the house for doctor’s appointments. She was also told to wear a mask and gloves whenever she did have to go to doctors’ appointments and right when she would get home from the appointments she was to take off the clothes to get a shower immediately. She was to also wash the clothes she wore immediately as well.

While the ruckus was starting to cause fear for us in March, my mom also started a new chemo drug in March too. Her new chemo causes her to have low white blood cell counts and low neutrophils, this causes her to have a vulnerability and would be easily susceptible to the virus. Because of this, only one person is allowed to go out into the public like going to store in my house to decrease the spread. My dad has to follow the same rules that my mom does when going to the doctor like wearing gloves and masks, while also keeping social distance. It’s hard for me because even though I haven’t been anywhere since schools have been closed, my mom still has to keep the social distance from me and we can’t even hug. Soon we might have to wear masks even inside the house with her, it’s getting scary.

As for treatments, my mother’s doctors have decided what is considered essential and safe for her to still be receiving. My mother has had to skip her Xgeva shot, which is a bone-strengthening shot for her cancer that has spread to her bones. By skipping these shots, it could make more susceptible to bone injuries or cancer spreading. My mom is also seeing most of her doctors through Telemed, it’s like facetiming your own doctors!  My mom still has to go and get blood work done almost every week to make sure her counts aren’t getting lower.

Sadly, my mom can’t travel to Duke Cancer Institute because it is too risky right now and my mom also has to put a hold on her scans as well since people who may have the virus might need to have images done on their lungs to check for pneumonia, it is also too risky. Luckily, my mom is still able to complete a bulk of her treatments since they are done mostly at home. It is also great that her team at HIMG is accommodating and is taking protocols by having my mom wait in her car instead of the waiting room as an example.  My mom’s family medicine doctor is also allowing “drive-by blood work”. This is all cutting down on the spread while allowing needy patients to get the proper treatments.

Luckily, my mom is able to almost continue on like normal with her treatments. Sadly, this isn’t the case for all cancer patients. At some oncology offices and units, due to the virus, they are having to decide if certain patients are safe to come and get chemo or radiation treatments. It is a sad situation because you could be risking your life to get the one thing that is saving your life or face the risk of your cancer worsening to not catch the virus. This very pick your poison scenario.

Overall, this virus is having everyone change their lives. In no way, this is a competition of who has it worse right now. Though I would say, giving up a prom or graduation is easier than having to give up a drug that is saving your life. Please remember to stay home because it saves lives.