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Cancer during Covid-19

Cancer During COVID-19

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From the Desk of…

Erinn Anderson, LMSW

Cancer Care Services’ Clinic Social Worker

My mom, who is also one of my best friends, a phenomenal grandmother to my children, and caregiver to her own 95-year-old mother was diagnosed with cancer in December 2019.  She had successful surgery in January and was encouraged to take chemo for long-term protection from recurrent cancer.

Her first chemo was a little bumpy, but we got through it. I had a plan for her to “do better” the next chemo, even though I didn’t verbally share that plan with her. I planned to provide all the cooked meals, housework, etc. so my mom could focus on recovering and return to “normal” as soon as possible.

She recently had chemo on a Tuesday, and she felt increasingly bad all the way up to Sunday night, despite my “plan” that was in action. Sunday night, she called me because her symptoms were becoming unbearable. We called her oncologist that same night, who advised she push a large amount of fluids because her symptoms sounded like significant dehydration.

Unfortunately, the next morning the symptoms (fast pulse, really low blood pressure, chest and arm pain) continued so we saw her oncologist who sent us across the street to the hospital emergency room. I drove my mom to the ER, dropped her at the curb, and proceeded to park the car. When I went to join her, I literally wasn’t allowed to go past the reception desk at the ER! The lobby had been converted to a COVID-19 triage area, there was a security guard stationed at the entrance, and a nurse shook her head in apology.

My mom and I looked at each other in disbelief. She gathered a few belongings and headed down the hall alone. I walked back to the parking lot and cried, my mind racing with all the “what ifs.” She was in the emergency department all day having multiple tests done. None of the staff could provide updates over the phone due to HIPAA, but one finally told my mother to call us on her cell phone which wasn’t receiving the signal from outside calls.

Ultimately, my mom was admitted to the hospital from Monday to Wednesday with NO VISITORS of any kind. Thankfully she was lucid, awake, and capable of advocating for herself – because she was alone the entire time. All of the updates on her test results and her status came from phone calls she made to me. Her doctor graciously took my mom an overnight bag with clothes, a phone charger, and some snacks we sent.

And we talked on the phone. A lot. She spoke about getting herself out of bed to get snacks and water, a task caregivers eagerly jump up to do. She spoke to her cardiologist and every other specialist that visited with her alone, and miraculously remembered the important points of the conversations.

I feel so awful for all of the patients and caregivers who didn’t have the advantages we did. As my husband said, this virus is getting into all the nooks and crannies.

Tell us how COVID-19 is impacting you or someone you love who has cancer by clicking on this link: Share Your COVID-19 Cancer Story

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