Cancer doesn't stop in a pandemic
Hey guys! I hope you are all holding in there. This blog has been a long time coming, but I have been finding it quite hard to concentrate on being 'productive'/struggling to find the motivation. Everyone on instagram says THAT's OKAY, but I still can't help feeling annoyed with myself for not 'making the most' of all this 'free time' that has been gifted to us. How have you found the lockdown? Are you working from home, or have you found yourself workless like me? Have you been super productive and busy with your time or have you just slept and ate? Or have you found a nice healthy balance? I'd love to know. Anyway, onto the blog. It's about cancer, so, grab a cuppa and hold tight...
Since Coronavirus first stepped onto the scene, I have noticed many links between it and the other big C - cancer.
(Before I get started, I want to say that it is very important we follow the guidelines (STAY AT HOME if you can), and it is pivotal we 'flatten the curve' so to speak, that those who need it have access to proper PPE and that we crack down on better testing in this country and speed up the process to finding a vaccine. Okay. I've said it. Now the rest of this blog is going to be about cancer which may not be the big issue in the world at the moment but hopefully by the end of this blog you'll understand where I'm coming from. Anyway I'm going to start my (highly eloquent) rant).
Don't get me wrong - I know the actual differences between the big and bigger C; for starters, one is a highly contagious virus and one is a disease caused by cell mutation. However, they are both killers without a cure, working to spread fear across the world.
The language used around Coronavirus, and the impact it has had on our lives, really remind me of cancer. Within the cancer community, this has already been noted. Cancer patients who have had chemotherapy are already well used to the idea of having to stay away from people due to their weakened immune system, we are used to spending long periods at home, we are used to the idea of loss, we are used to making sacrifices. One could say cancer patients are amongst the most prepared for a crisis like this - as well as being in the group that is the most at risk from the virus. God dammit.
In addition, as has already made the news, the 'battle' terminology used to describe Coronavirus really rings of cancer. Not only are we at war with an 'invisible killer', but those who contract the virus find themselves in a battle against it, presumably one they will either win or lose. I have explained before how dangerous this terminology can be, and finally the issue has found its way into the limelight. Nobody 'fights' this disease harder than anybody else. Like cancer, it ultimately comes down to luck and the limits of medical care. Read my blog about battle terminology here.
Moreover, we have heard time and time again that Coronavirus does not discriminate; that becoming extremely apparent when Tom Hanks, Prince Charles, and of course our dear PM Johnson contracted the disease. Well, you know what else doesn't discriminate? I'll give you a clue, it starts with C, ends in R and affects nearly 17 million people worldwide every year. Arguably, it is a pandemic that's been plaguing the earth for thousands, if not millions of years... 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime and it doesn't matter who you are, how old you are, where you live, you are still at risk, much like Coronavirus.
I want to address now not the similarities between cancer and Coronavirus, but how cancer patients are being affected by this pandemic. If I were to write a list it would be unbearably long, from cancelled scans, operations, treatment, to people not being diagnosed as swiftly. In March, NHS A&E visits dropped by nearly half - people scared to go into hospital for fear of catching the virus. The consequences for many people delaying seeing a doctor for just a couple months where cancer is involved can be catastrophic. The cancer world constantly drive for earlier diagnosis, being diagnosed at an early stage for most cancers being your best chances at recovery and survival. We won't know the true consequences of this on cancer diagnoses until we are through it and the stats come out, but I cannot imagine it looking good. My message to anyone experiencing any symptoms of cancer, however small or insignificant you may think, would be as usual to get it checked out - even if starting with a phone call with your GP.
Of course, with Coronavirus being a high risk for many cancer patients who are immuno-compromised, the risks must be weighed up by each individual and their medical team. This has always been the case for cancer patients, though - will the treatment cause more harm than good? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? This is an extremely tough time for so many people, cancer patients making up a proportion of our most vulnerable population. Having to decide whether or not to continue with potentially life saving or life-prolonging treatment is hard enough without having to throw a life threatening virus in the mix. The NHS is making sure that no urgent treatments or operations are being cancelled, which is great, but for the people whose treatment plans have been affected by the virus - what measures are being put in place for them? Cancer is such an unpredictable disease that it is surely not a clear-cut decision between stopping scans and treatment and continuing them.
Cancer in the UK is the cause of more than a quarter of deaths annually. It is fair to ask that it is not forgotten. I hope that what we have been trying to achieve for cancer patients can still be achieved. Cancer charities, that play such a large role in making our lives better, are suffering in today's climate. Some charities for instance are having to furlough members of staff. With big events such as the London Marathon being postponed, charities are missing out on some of their biggest fundraisers of the year. Sarcoma UK have had to work on and expand their support and information staff to manage the influx of contact they're getting from worried sarcoma sufferers! They need our donations now more than ever, so if you can please consider donating to one of the many important cancer charities such as Sarcoma UK or Trekstock.
I realise cancer is not the biggest issue in the world right now, but we cannot let Coronavirus halt our progress, we cannot let it cause even more cancer deaths, and we must not let it overshadow cancer and other diseases that are still out there killing people. Cancer is the fight I have chosen to fight. Sure, we can't fix every injustice in the world as individuals, and if you aren't donating to cancer charities I understand. We have all got to choose our battles, whether that be animal rights, climate change, child abuse - they are all equally valid and if everyone equally balanced their passion for everything that is important in the world, nothing would ever get done or change. But, if cancer affects you, and you do care about it, please please try to help. Spread the word. Tell your family members to check their bodies. Donate. Do what you can at this desperate time. Every little really really helps.
Thanks for reading this blog, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter and what you've been getting up to during the lockdown.
Until next time,
Helpful Q&A for sarcoma patients: https://sarcoma.org.uk/covid-19-coronavirus-advice
Covid 19 advice for cancer patients: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/coronavirus-and-cancer
Call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website: https://www.samaritans.org/
The Macmillan support line on 0808 8080000 open 7 days a week
Donate to Sarcoma UK: https://sarcoma.org.uk/donate
Live coronavirus data: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
P.S. If you liked this blog please like and share it! It'd mean the world to me. Thank you!
P.P.S. This year I am going to be taking on lots of random challenges, on top of running/swimming/cycling 500k over the year! This is all in support of Sarcoma UK, the national sarcoma charity that funds vital research and support for patients and their families affected by the rare cancer. If you want to support me, then you can donate whatever you can through this link. Even £1 would be greatly appreciated, and you can donate completely anonymously!! Thank you!