150. Cancer in times of Covid

I've lost count of the many times I watched the news and said, Thank goodness I had my cancer treatment THEN and not now.

All these reports of Covid-filled hospital wards whilst cancer patients had their surgery postponed. It's bad enough nervously counting down the weeks to your operation without the stone-sinking worry about what your cancer cells are up to whilst your doctors and nurses are busy elsewhere for who-knows-how-long. It's bad enough coping with chemotherapy playing havoc with your immune system, without the added stress of shielding. And it's bad enough being rushed into A&E with your husband to help you. I couldn't bear the stories of desperately ill people, all alone in hospital. Dying alone.

Thank goodness I had cancer when I did, and not now.

But now? Well, I'm amazed. The words COVID and BACKLOG are enough to send any cancer patient into a mild panic, but I only heard those once, when I first tried to get seen at the breast clinic. Since then, I've been whizzed through the system faster than you can say Hello.

Eight years ago, there were six weeks between showing my suspicious lump to the surgeon and the surgeon taking it out. This time, it's just five weeks.

Last time, I sat in overflowing waiting rooms for hours. I learned that patients have to be patient

Sometimes it seems that appointment times are simply academic: a vague indication of whether you should come in the morning or in the afternoon. 

This time, I can take my pick of empty seats and have yet to wait longer than 15 minutes. Popping down from my office to the scanning department, at exactly the allotted time, the nurse was already waiting for me. Quickly done, she sent me to the CT scanner nextdoor: "Might as well get you through that now, saves you having to come back later."

Last time, my pre-operative appointment consisted of hours of waiting to be poked and prodded and asked endless questions. This time, the questions were asked over the phone at exactly the agreed time, taking just 15 minutes. I had to go into hospital for the podding and poking, but barely had time to sit in the waiting room (which, incidentally, had a rather interesting choice of entertainment - no break from work topics here!).

So from where I'm sitting, it seems that Covid has actually improved my hospital experience. When I compliment the staff on this stellar service, they tell me they like it too. "It's one thing we're going to keep up," said the nurse who did the pre-op assessment by phone.

The breast care nurse tells me that they even managed to keep going with seeing cancer patients, all the way through the Covid crisis. Hats off.

In the meantime, I have to try and stay Covid-free until Friday.

They do a PCR test three days before surgery, after which I'm meant to isolate with my entire household. I don't want to run any risks of a positive test, so I've been working from home and semi-shielding along with my husband. The rest of the house emptied a week ago. Covid is rampant in London at the moment, with almost daily reports from son and daughters (and indeed my own office) of people testing positive. My son, who had been staying with us for a few weeks, returned to his own home. My daughters, who still live here, moved out until surgery day - taking Bear and Pig with them. 

We said our goodbyes, and now it's strangely quiet.

It could have been nicely restful if it wasn't for the 1st April looming like a bad joke. Let's just hope that my next blog post isn't called Cancelled in times of Covid.