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!
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!