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Cancer Treatment in a Pandemic

July 6, 2021

I am about to start week 3 of the first cycle of my cancer treatment.  I am receiving immunotherapy, which is basically the same as chemotherapy except that for chemo you are bombarded with a treatment which is not targeted and destroys good and bad cells, whereas immunotherapy is more targeted, acting on the specific t- and b-cells which are causing my particular form of leukaemia.  Think more laser-sighted rifle than machine gun.  Think also that most of my blood consists of bad cells.  I am quite the internal battleground.

image description – a photograph of the author who has short red bobbed hair and is wearing a green t-shirt with cartoon images of female action heroes.  They are sitting in a hospital chair holding their left arm in front of them.  The forearm has a port inserted into the skin through which IV drugs can be transfused.

My treatment a complicated regime involving two different drugs, one infused through IV and one in tablet form.  The IV is for six months (cycles 1 to 6 inclusive) and the medication is for a year (end of cycle 1 to cycle 12 inclusive).  It involves up to six trips to and from the hospital in the first month, down to two a week from the third cycle; I have a calendar and am still confused.  After the 12th cycle ends it is hoped my leukaemia will have improved to the point that I will once again enter the active monitoring (watch and wait) phase.  My cancer does not go into remission, it just resets and starts its journey again.

Treatment is made more dangerous for me, and more difficult to navigate, because of Covid.  More specifically, because of the confusing, selfish messaging that the United Kingdom has been given, together with the idea that somehow personal freedom to be all about oneself is more important than acknowledging and supporting the fact we live in communities and affect many people every day in our interactions, however small they may be.

Yesterday the UK government announced it is shortly going to be relaxing the rules that it had not been enforcing anyway, and it was hoped everything would be returning to “normal”.  This new Step 4 regime starts on 19th July 2021 as England moves out of lockdown.  However, as the document itself says, the final decision will be made on 12th July 2021, so that could all change again.  The devolved governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will have their own procedures for dealing with the pandemic.

Consistent, clear, updating advice.  It must be nice to have a government that provides that… *side-eyes New Zealand*.  I strongly recommend you read the link to what will be expected of you, as it is now all down to personal responsibility and everyone caring about the other people with whom you share an environment.

Image of a medication pot split into seven separate days, further split into morning, afternoon and evening sections.  The pots are seven different colours, being left to right pink, orange, yellow, cream, blue, turquoise and purple.  The days of the week are listed above, and the weeks are also numbered.

At present I have absolutely no immune system whatsoever.  Nix, nada, zero, zip, zilch, nothing.  I have a mune system, being the exact inverse opposite of im.  I am literally an ex-vaxxer because it worked for two weeks and now treatment has removed all trace of antibody protection.  I’ve levelled up on medication pots and have yet to be prescribed the tablet section of my treatment.

I’ve come to terms with the fact I will be shielding indefinitely yet it is still possible I may be out mid-2022.  Who knows?  I am vulnerable to every infection now, and highly susceptible to sepsis should I get an infection.  The pandemic simply makes it easier for me to decide to stay inside.  It’s not really a choice, as I want to live.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be having my cancer treatment.  Unfortunately because I do want to live I have to spend a considerable time just existing.

Will society suddenly realise that it is not quite ready to ditch the masks?  That distancing is quite a good idea really?  That the NHS needs help so the fewer the infections, the better the healthcare system?  That their neighbour who they have never spoke too might still carry covid or become ill, and it only takes one cough/sneeze/touch-contact to hurt a vulnerable person?  That the children are being released into normality just before the school summer holidays so parents are likely to be stuck at home with potential biohazards running around the place?

At this point it doesn’t really matter if society does a complete 180 and starts taking it seriously; the fact is I can’t trust people to do so.  Like with any prejudice, because it is a prejudice to presume that those with disabilities/conditions should be treated differently/hidden away/excluded from access to living with self-determination, I don’t know who the person is who will hurt me until I have been hurt.

I am living through a pandemic and I am living through treatment for cancer.  Next year I plan on living just for me.  On the plus side, I have a treatment room with a view.

The view from my treatment chair being three windows, each with two panes of glass.  There are tall trees of all shapes and shades of green visible in the lower windows, and a bright blue sky filled with clouds visible in the upper windows.  Inside the room up against the windows are three metal trolleys on top of which are, from left to right, a small plastic cup with a jug of water, unknown medical machine, empty.

One Comment
  1. Hey Tina! I hope all is going well and you won’t need too many more of those sessions. You will get over this too, you’re such a big fighter

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