Written by Marie Pandeloglou, a Breast Cancer Trials IMPACT Advocate.
Five years ago when I thought I was in remission from my breast cancer diagnosis, I received the devastating news that my cancer had come back. That nagging cough and change in voice was not the flu. It was cancer - breast cancer cells had spread to my lungs initially, and then to my liver and more recently to the brain which means I am now living with stage IV, or metastatic, breast cancer.
Living with metastatic breast cancer has been extremely challenging; the surgeries, radiotherapy sessions, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. But it has become even harder now.
COVID-19 is a real risk for me and many others in my position. I am considered high-risk as I am undergoing active treatment for my cancer.
I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for my cancer and my oncologists treatment decisions for me have been influenced by this ongoing pandemic. She has chosen a form of chemotherapy that has less contact time in the chemo ward and more time doing oral chemotherapy where I can stay safely at home. I am also taking injections to help increased my white cell count, something that would not be necessary before COVID-19 but is now essential.
I am so impressed by the precautions taken by my hospital and treatment team, but for it to make a real difference for me, I need everyone in my community to step up.
I have to take this seriously, as my life depends on it. It is hard, but it is necessary.
The isolation is lonely. Where once I was able to have my family and friends share a laugh in the chemo ward or a visit at home, I am now in isolation going through the chemotherapy symptoms alone and waiting anxiously for my husband to return from work.
Living with metastatic breast cancer means every day is a gift that I’m still here. However, not being able to hug my daughters and parents, who don’t live with me, is very difficult and sad.
I’m staying home self-isolating during the day, having groceries delivered each day and sanitising every single thing that comes into my home. When my husband gets home from his job the first thing he does, even before I get a kiss, is he changes his clothes and showers immediately. When we walk our dog, we wear masks and wave to neighbours from afar.
What worries me is the statistics continue to show more and more cases of people contracting the virus. How is someone supposed to be given a fighting chance when the severity of the virus isn’t taken seriously by everybody? I can’t stress enough just how important it is to follow the government lockdown rules and restrictions applicable in your state and everyone to stay home.
This isn’t just for you, but about all of us. We need to work together to get control of this virus.
This is a real threat to my life. Having a very low immune system puts me in high risk of contracting the virus. It means an extra real threat to me and so many others living with metastatic cancer who are already fighting for their lives. I together with other metastatic patients were fighting before COVID-19 showed up and we want to be here long after it is gone.
Please take all the precautions measures seriously to help metastatic patients safe. Our lives depend on it.
Marie Pandeloglou is a Breast Cancer Trials IMPACT Advocate. IMPACT Advocate help to educate the community on the importance of breast cancer clinical trials research. You can join IMPACT here.
Breast Cancer Trials has collated some information for those who are undergoing cancer treatment and may have compromised immune systems.