COVID-19 and Cancer: A Caregiver's Perspective
At 6:30 am this morning on my way into Stop & Shop in Narragansett, the talk show host of a popular morning program was fielding questions from shoppers to learn what their shopping experience was like. Were there long lines? Were the shelves stocked? Was there enough toilet paper? Enough Depends? His attempt to be funny with this last question didn’t make me laugh. Instead I winced. For a senior who has come out of retirement twice to pay medical bills for a wife who is in her fourth clinical trial spanning 15+ years, it’s not a laughing matter. As a caregiver, I too have heightened anxieties about contracting the Coronavirus and passing it along to my wife whose immune system is compromised by the chemotherapy treatment that she receives. Once inside the store I quickly realized that while this may have been done with the best of intentions, it was one of the worst places that I could be. Aisles crowded with lines to check out starting at the back of the store next to the dairy section. Instead of keeping a distance of 6 feet, it was one carriage backed up against the next. I found a place to park my carriage and left the store, frustrated at not having had the opportunity to get what I went there for but also feeling that there has to be a better way of implementing these safeguards. For families whose loved one has a life-threatening illness, this is not the time to be making light of it. Later this morning, I learned that the Belmont Grocery Store in Wakefield had approached it differently. Only 25 people at a time were allowed in to shop but an outdoor tent had been set up so that shoppers who were waiting to get in wouldn’t get wet. It made a world of difference to shoppers to be treated in this way. It’s time for all of us to consider, not what is just in our own personal interest but in that of our neighbors too. Our anxieties, our fear of contracting the Coronavirus will be lessened if our experience outside of our home is one in which CDC guidelines are adhered to. This is not a drill. It’s the real thing and our lives and those we love are dependent on it.
Director and Caregiver
For more information about cancer and COVID-19, check out our resources page here.
Annual Cancer Summit
FAQs for Cancer Patients on the Coronavirus
Medically Reviewed By: Candace Hsieh, RN; Sarah Hammond, MD; Craig Bunnell, MD, MPH
March 23, 2020
The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, causes the disease COVID-19, a respiratory illness. The spread of COVID-19 is disrupting life — for those who have been infected with the virus as well as those who haven’t — on a global scale.
As with many public health issues, the coronavirus outbreak may pose special risks for some cancer patients. We spoke with Sarah Hammond, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Craig Bunnell, MD, MPH, chief medical officer at Dana-Farber, about some of the specific challenges cancer patients may face at this time.
The situation regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving; for the latest information, be sure to seek out reputable sources of information, such as the CDC.
What steps should patients take to protect themselves from the virus?
The advice for patients with cancer is basically the same as for the general population:
Wash hands frequently with sanitizer or soap and water and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
Avoid contact with people known to be infected with the virus or with those showing symptoms of infection.
Avoid crowds and situations where you’re likely to be less than six feet from others. (Airborne spread of the virus occurs when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, releasing droplets that can travel three feet. Maintaining a six-foot distance provides a safety margin.)
Avoid cafeteria-style eating areas where self-serve utensils are shared by customers.
Use public transportation only when necessary and wash hands after using any public facility.
Does vaping make you more susceptible to coronavirus?
By Christina Capatides
March 10, 2020
The CDC's latest National Youth Tobacco Survey found that a staggering 1 in 3 American high school students used some type of tobacco product in the previous 30 days, and for the vast majority of them that means e-cigarettes. Millions of teens have gotten hooked on vaping.
Last summer, that trend led to a disturbing uptick in deaths and serious respiratory illnesses among otherwise healthy young people, in many cases believed to be linked to THC or Vitamin E acetate that individuals were unknowingly ingesting through vaping liquids. And now, experts caution that a vaping habit might also make young people in the U.S. more susceptible to the coronavirus.
In a press briefing on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed that, despite the fact that older people are generally most at risk of serious illness from coronavirus, one of the current cases in New York is an otherwise healthy 22-year-old man.
"Why is a 22-year-old man stable but hospitalized at this point? The one factor we know of is he is a vaper," de Blasio said. "So, we don't know of any preexisting conditions, but we do think the fact that he is a vaper is affecting this situation."
On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated its guidance that older Americans and people with medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are most susceptible to coronavirus. People who are immunosuppressed because they have cancer or they're on a type of medication that weakens their immune system are also more at risk.
Tips for Coping with Stress and Uncertainty
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has recently shared a patient's tips for getting through stressful times. Check out their social media at Dana Farber (Instagram), Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Facebook), and DanaFarber (Twitter) to see what else they are sharing. Check out their website at to learn more!
Four Things Patients with Cancer Should Know About Coronavirus 2019
By Conor Killmurray
February 26, 2020
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (now known as COVID-19) that was first reported in Wuhan, China, in 2019, has quickly spread throughout China and to 31 other countries including the United States. It’s no longer a matter of if there is an outbreak in the U.S. but a matter of when, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“(Patients need to know that) all individuals with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk for complications associated with the virus that causes COVID illness,” Dr. Christina Tan, state epidemiologist, assistant commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health, said in an interview with ContagionLive®, a sister publication of CURE®.
As of Feb. 23, 2020, according to information from the CDC, there were 76,936 reported cases of coronavirus in mainland China and an additional 1,875 cases elsewhere. Globally there have been 2,462 deaths associated with COVID-19, but none in the U.S. As of this writing, there have been 14 cases of coronavirus reported in the U.S. with an additional 39 cases from people returning from high-risk areas, meaning people need to prepare for the chance of a possible outbreak, especially patients with cancer that are already immunocompromised and susceptible to other illnesses.
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