Today we're facing a global pandemic in which cancer patients are particularly at risk. How can cancer patients and their families stay safe, healthy, and engaged as the novel coronavirus affects communities across the globe?
We asked Drew Griffin, a colorectal cancer survivor, about his experience in Seattle and his advice for cancer patients in these difficult circumstances.
What has your experience in Seattle been during the COVID-19 situation, and how does this compare to your usual day-to-day?
As dangerous as COVID-19 is, I remind myself and others that I wake up to a bigger threat to my life every day, do what I need to do, and keep on living.
Living on a front line of this epidemic is unnerving and stressful because as we discover new outbreak locations around town, it limits locations and services that I can safely access. I am fortunate to live in a house with few neighbors nearby, so I am able to control my environment, but the simple act of walking out of my house now feels dangerous. When I venture into the world to run errands, I get an underlying feeling of anxiety when I touch any surface or get too close to people, so being prepared ahead of time helps me feel confident that I can keep myself from being exposed.
Because of immunotherapy, I have been able to live a “normal” life that has allowed me to be a part of everyday society. During bad cold and flu seasons, I have only taken slightly modified precautions. The situation today is completely different since everyone is impacted. The impact to life in general feels overwhelming. Fear and anxiety hangs all around since no one is immune.
Do you have access to the resources you need?
I have a terrific network of friends and chosen family that make sure I have what I need. In fact, as the outbreak began to get serious, a friend sent me a box of c95 masks so I could adequately protect myself as needed. I live with my best friend of 25 years and he makes sure that I have everything I need, so I am doing what I can to help direct others to resources and information so they have the same opportunity.
Have people changed their behavior to ensure that you are less vulnerable?
Yes, absolutely. Nothing says “you matter to me” more than the extra precautions taken to limit my exposure. Friends check in with me regularly to see how I am doing, but also let me know if they have a sign of a cold. When I am scheduled to visit a friend's home, the environment is sanitized and we discuss ways to keep me safe during our interaction.
What communications are you receiving from doctors and your care team?
In the early days of the outbreak, I discussed the situation with my oncologist and learned how to keep myself safe. Since then I have been sure to check the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance website for the latest information. I know that if I ever have questions, concerns or medical need, I can count on SCCA to receive the information or care that I need.
What resources or information would you like to share with cancer patients and caregivers at this time?
- Take precautions to keep yourself safe and healthy.
- Wash your hands whenever returning home from work or a public place, and request any guests do the same.
- Sanitize your home environment regularly.
- Carry hand sanitizer (and use it regularly) when in public.
- Use a tissue or other barrier to open doors or touch public surfaces.
- Keep your distance from people when in public.
- Wear a mask when in any crowd or where people are closer together, such as grocery stores.
- Avoid public transportation and travel if possible.
If you take heightened precautions and limit your exposure, it is possible to stay healthy during this outbreak.
READ DREW’S STORY IN THE IMMUNOCOMMUNITY
For up-to-date information for people with cancer during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, visit:
Contact your medical team for advice and assistance.
Mask image courtesy of Peter Senzamici.