Allison Etwaroo - Cancer and COVID
Cancer and COVID
February 27th, 2020. My family doctor has called me into her office to discuss the results of my FNA lymph node biopsy. She’s wearing a surgical mask, declaring she has a cold and not COVID. OK, great doc. What’s the news? Her wearing a face mask was the beginning of an unique cancer journey.
I was diagnosed only two weeks before the world seemingly shut down. Schools closed, workplaces sent employees home indefinitely, grocery panic shopping began and most curiously, shoppers began hoarding toilet paper. I had four weeks between diagnosis and meeting with my oncologist. Four weeks where the world changed forever and so did I. 12 sessions of chemotherapy. 15 visits to the oncologist. 7 chest x-rays. 5 ECGs. 3 pulmonary function tests. 2 pet scans. 3 CT scans. 20 appointments for blood draws. 6 months at home, isolating and recovering. All alone. No friend to keep my company, no husband to hold my hand, no parent to distract me. That was one of the biggest impacts of COVID.
Cancer and loneliness are a common story, COVID added to that loneliness. Having no childcare due to COVID, meant my husband and three year old daughter dropped me off for my first chemotherapy appointment. I had to muster every ounce of strength as I wanted to stay strong and as my grandma says, “I just couldn’t go to that dark spot” or I might not walk through the doors. There were some unique downsides to cancer during COVID. The three Cs we started to call it: cancer, chemo and COVID.
Wearing a mask while fighting extreme nausea during chemo, isolation and extreme social distancing, attending appointments alone, relying on delivery for all goods. Countless times we heard from others that my timing for cancer and chemo was lucky as I wasn’t missing out on anything since the world was locked down anyway. Sorry, but not really. Choosing to find some optimism, there were some advantages of the three Cs. The world moved to virtual everything. I could access so many services virtually, without having to figure out a wig, or drawing on my eyebrows or finding pants that fit after the steroid weight gain. Therapy, physiotherapy, disability insurance coordinator check ups, lymphoma support groups and personal training are just a few examples of different services that moved to virtual appointments. Accessing these virtually, when I was barely able to leave my home, was of immense value.
Most cancer patients have physically low days and unique needs to isolate. I expect that as the world moves out of COVID-19, we can expect these online platforms to maintain their role in the cancer journey. While I felt physically alone, being able to access so many service virtually was helpful. So in a unique to COVID only way, thank you to zoom and teams for letting me be close to my snacks, meds and water during appointments!