Being A Cancer Patient In 2020

Let’s be honest there is no good time to have your life interrupted by cancer! But this year would definitely not be the one of choice! Many of us are already well into long-term treatment, and others are yet to officially join us. Without doubt hearing the words “you have cancer,” has been THE most life changing moment of my life. But very closely followed by 2020, which has also changed my life, not physically but certainly emotionally!

Being already classed as ‘vulnerable’ before Covid struck, I was one of the first to be asked to shield in March. Not a massive thing for me personally because I had been used to do many of those things anyway. The biggest issue was not seeing family and friends for months! People are a big part of my life and I love hugging and kissing, not EVERYONE of course!! In my mind it was only going to be a relatively short period of time for life to be disrupted, so we would just have to suck it up.

But it hasn’t turned out like that at all. Weeks have turned to months and the things we took for granted not long ago, are disappearing. Maybe never to return as we knew them previously? Apart from a few lovely sunny weeks when businesses started to reopen, and we enjoyed a little break from the shackles we were living under, things are now starting to get worse. The virus is increasing dramatically, businesses are closing frequently and our NHS is now coming under more strain, yet again!

I’m having a delayed body scan in September

Of course dealing with the virus is our priority, but not to the detriment of other diseases, that even prior to our current circumstances, have higher death rates. How do you explain to someone who is already on a treatment regime, that it has to stop? Too risky to attend hospital, shortage of staff, or any other reason. Knowing that your personal health will be getting worse because of that. Dealing with cancer or any other life threatening illness is tough enough, without having to fight for the treatment you are entitled to.

To add to that is the issue of clinical trials that should be benefitting people coming through the system now and in the future. Many have been stopped by lack of finance, or resources moved to deal with the virus. These may take ages to start again, if they ever do. Most of us embedded in the system are finding difficulty receiving services we did previously. Many can’t start treatment and others are too fearful to go to their GP or local hospital for tests. This will result in the cancer sector being overwhelmed for a long period of time. We simply don’t have the experienced staff or equipment to do what will be required.

Unfortunately cancer is not something that you can ignore and it will disappear. Quite the reverse! By delaying diagnosis, then treatment, we will suffer more deaths and increasing costs over a long period of time. Even pre-Covid, 450 people per day die from cancer in the UK. I would argue also that our services were not up to the standard of many European counties, giving us poorer outcomes and survival rates. That wasn’t acceptable then and things are only getting worse now!

I believe that only patients and people working in the NHS can change this quickly. We are now at the place where patients are finally being listened to. At last politicians are talking about cancer, and the media are featuring patient stories. None of this was happening before. I would like to also see NHS staff speaking up about this issue. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to tell patients they can’t have the treatment that may help them to extend their lives.

Yes we are in a place in time unprecedented to anything we have seen before. But I believe that this should create opportunities to do things differently, and look outside what we have been doing for years. We are under resourced and under financed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t deliver. It means we need to be much more creative with our thinking. Something that hasn’t come easy to healthcare or governments in the past.

We cannot continue to sacrifice patients with cancer and other life threatening diseases, to give our entire focus to Covid. This is total madness both in the short and long term. Cancer has been around since as far back as we can remember and will continue to kill more people that this virus ever will. A massive rise in deaths and waiting list for treatment will be one of the biggest legacy’s from the virus.

If you are a concerned patient or NHS staff who would like to add anything to this discussion please feel free to get in touch with me. We are only just starting our struggle and more points of view and experiences are always welcome. As always these are my personal views, feel free to add yours below!

6 Comments

  1. Thanks, Chris. How’s it going?

    I am trying to lead resistance to these “lockdown” measure. Let’s see.

  2. Thanks for this notification Chris, I have reposted. Stay safe and all the best to you and your family Dianne

  3. Thanks so much Dianne and the very best to you and yours during these challenging times, Chris XX

  4. Hi Chris, this is a very good article which highlights the issue of Covid 19 Vs Long term conditions such as cancer. I knew that deaths from cancer had risen during the pandemic but to see 34,962 since August 2020 is truly shocking!!!! My treatment was moved from being hospital based to home in March. All consultations are now telephone based. I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to be told that treatment must stop, especially where a person is terminally ill. A voice message was left for me in the early days of the pandemic to say my treatment was cancelled but it turned out to be an administrative mixup. When you live with stage 4 cancer you worry about disease progression from one scan to the next. I am currently in this very headspace as my 6 monthly scans are due next week (slightly delayed). With the opening of the Nightingale hospitals surely cancer care could have been moved to covid safe spaces by now. Perhaps this is not the issue, perhaps it is the consultant/CNS capacity which is the issue. The govt have had 6 months to strategise this. If they relocate staff, the NHS will not have sufficient expertise to manage patients with CV19. To be honest cancer services could have been delivered had creative thinking been part of the overall strategy. Lok how quickly the Nightingales went up!!! I have always felt that some consultations could be delivered by video/phone call as we spend hours in the hospital waiting room and 10-15 minutes in the consultation room with the clinic appointments running outside of scheduled appointments. Could they not set up specialised covid free scanning/phlebotomy/consultation centres across the country inside the Nightingales? It could happen but unfortunately our NHS/Govt have some who embrace progressive thinking and others who are sticklers for ‘doing things the way they have always been done’ plus politics! Unfortunately as we know, there is no time or space for uncertainty with cancer – it costs lives. Let’s hope they get their act together ad don’t repeat cancer care lockdown costing even more untimely deaths…

  5. Hi Cheryl,

    Great to hear from you on here! From your response I think you are more than qualified to run the NHS! I think what we do know is that creative thinking and our Government don’t go together. Of course there are things that could be done to ensure vital services continue. But unfortunately the staff on the ground who know best are dictated to by politicians.

    The Nightingale option has been talked about several times, but I understand this will take many staff away from their regular hospitals. In many cases it is a question of staff capacity and not just bed numbers. This is where the chronic underfunding in our services is showing.

    It certainly is difficult dealing with cancer treatment through these Covid times. We are probably lucky in many respects that our treatment has started and is ongoing. I will continue campaigning for the people who have had treatment stopped or are not attending GPs etc for possible diagnosis. As I will continue to say, cancer will kill more people than covid now and set us back at least 10 years with research and backlogs.

    Very best to you and your family!

    Stay safe, Chris XXX

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