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Cancer in a Pandemic



So far as I can tell, I'm being treated as per usual. Meaning, treatment for my recently diagnosed thyroid cancer is on track. On track meaning multiple hospital visits at two health care facilities (some even on the same day) over five consecutive days to include four radioiodine injections, pre-and post-treatment CT scans, lab work, miscellaneous other medical appointments and a low iodine diet to boot spread out over a nearly six-week interval including one over-night at the hospital.

To say I'm looking forward to the experience would be naïve. To say I'm looking forward to killing the remaining thyroid cancer in my body would be more accurate. The thyroidectomy I had in late January was very successful but approximately 15 percent of the cancer remains, embedded under my collarbone and elsewhere. Consequently, treatment of my pre-existing/underlying stage IV non small cell lung cancer will be further delayed while we address the thyroid cancer which the surgeon was unable to remove. And now that I have my schedule, as of March 27, I now know when and where and how the process will play out.

One potential major complication: the coronavirus pandemic. Given the screening questions I have been asked of late when calling for medical information, if I am unlucky and somehow become infected or come in contact with someone who has been diagnosed or travel/have traveled to an area of the country/world particularly hard hit, I am guessing my treatment stops/never gets started. And not to be too paranoid about something which hasn't even happened yet but, I'd just as soon not become another statistic and/or not get my cancer treatment and allow my two types of cancer to live on without any checks or balances. (Generally speaking, if the cancer is left alone, it likely won't spontaneously go into remission. Quite the opposite in fact and therein lies my fear of having 'cancer in a pandemic.)'

I imagine that at any time over the next six weeks, a hundred things could change that could adversely affect my treatment/schedule, many of which are beyond my control. And not that I'm a controlling person, but when it comes to medical treatment that might actually be saving/extending my life, I do become a bit preoccupied. And if push does come to shove, so to speak, there's not much that I can say or do about circumstances (staffing issues, medicine shortages, reduced hours, increase in patients, etc.) which might affect the availability of health care. As a cancer patient, you 'd like to have a little predictability given that your normal routine is hardly what you anticipated. However, none of us anticipated a pandemic and now all us patients are waiting for chips to fall and wondering/hoping our names will be on the treatment list.

Unfortunately ,cancer treatment is not hit or miss. It mostly needs to hit. And if some of the hits can't happen when protocol says it should, there is reason to be afraid. But being afraid now, before any of these pandemic-related complications have even occurred, is a waste of time, energy and emotional wherewithal. I don't need to worry yet. If any of these worse-case scenarios do happen, there will be plenty of time to worry later. At the moment, I'm scheduled, I'm not sick and I'm able to social-distance, self-isolate and shelter-in-place until further notice.

I just wish 'further notice' wasn't a month from now. So much can happen to so many at so many places, most of which I can't prevent. And yet, if these happenings are not prevented, it's possible the powers that most likely be will inform me that circumstances have overtaken their plans and my treatment will have to be delayed. I'm so close. Thirty days, however, is an eternity for a cancer patient. Somehow, I have to stop watching the calendar. I have to watch my "ps" and "qs" instead and avoid any unnecessary social interactions. I'd like to think that come the end of April, I'll be ready, willing and available. I just hope that I can say the same thing about the medical professionals and hospitals where I'll be getting treatment.


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