I have been really proud to host my ‘open house’ for the last couple of months, but from this week we are back to the ‘Cancer Community!’ Covid19 seemed to sweep away everything in it’s path. It has rightly made headlines across the world. We have never seen anything like it in modern times. For many of us our lives will be changed forever because of it. People building businesses have seen them collapse overnight, and many jobs will be lost. Our way of life will be very different to the one we were used to. Being in lock down for nearly 3 months, many of us will find it difficult going out again into crowded areas. Constantly thinking about our health vulnerabilities.
But in recent weeks I am really starting to hear horror stories from inside our cancer world. Both from clinicians and patients. The reality of putting cancer on the back burner. With a general fear of going near a GP and hospital unless you really have to, has led to an incredibly large backlog of possibly undiagnosed cases. Delayed treatment and the halting of many new trials has made life even more difficult for those already with the disease. With budget priorities also changing, it seems that from a patient perspective, life will become even more challenging.
Before the virus I could feel that the sector had got stuck in a rut, with the issues that have plagued us for years. Lack of motivation from Government, self interest from pharma, and a charity sector full of infighting for brand domination and a falling income. With patients having to push to get drugs and treatment that they were entitled to. But now things have just got a whole lot worse!!
The impact from Covid19 will take years to recover from, if we do at all. It has set most progress we had made back a long way. All budgets are being slashed, and charities are now in a battle for survival. Most resources are being used to get the country back on it’s economic feet. Everyone is looking for their own lifeboat, and I totally get it. But we cannot allow things to fall back. Cancer will not wait for any of us, whatever the excuse. People are dying daily, on average 450+, equating to 165,000 in just one year, (CRUK). A horrific number, that is increasing but rarely gets a mention.
We seem to have accepted this, which is shameful. During this crisis, despite seeing how poor our organisational ability can be at times, we have also seen some wonderful collaboration. Meaning that private and public enterprise can work together quickly, without being bound up in ever increasing red tape. Will this continue post Covid? The ease in which the NHS invited innovation in when it needed it. This shows what can be done when it is required, but why hasn’t it worked like that for cancer? With such terrible numbers and poor treatment performance when compared with some of our friends from Europe?
I am now seeing terrible individual cases with people fighting for drugs to be funded. Pushing to progress treatment they have already started, which is now delayed. Anyone who has experienced cancer will tell you that this is not the time that you want to be ‘fighting’ the system. My personal feeling is that only when patients start working together in a more coordinated way will anything improve.
There is now money and interest from every country in the world to tackle Covid therefore it seems our ‘Big C’ will become the ‘little c’ in the constant chase for funding. Even Cancer Research is eroding it’s focus on cancer discreetly, but omitting to mention that during their barrage of fundraising advertising!
We all know that early diagnosis will save lives and money, but I am very concerned that this won’t be happening to even the level we had reached pre Covid. None of us can afford that, with approximately half the country soon to be affected directly by cancer in their lifetime. It is important to increase, not decrease the work being done.
What has happened to the world in the last few months has been dreadful, and of course the fallout will continue for many years. But cancer will not stop for anything, and it too will continue to wreak havoc in our lives well after this current virus is just a memory. We need to push forward now!!