Cancer Alliance

Living with and Beyond Cancer

Living with cancer through Covid-19

By 5th June 2020 No Comments

Mum of three, Lizzie Parker was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2019. Since her diagnosis, Lizzie has been using her own experience to raise awareness and help others by sharing tips and advice on how to “live your best life despite the forecast”. Here Lizzie shares her experience of living with cancer through the coronavirus pandemic:

As the world begins to think about returning to ‘normal’, as a cancer patient this seems like something only I could wish for and consider. ‘Normal life’ goes out the window the day you are told you have joined the cancer community and this is not something anyone ever thinks might happen to them, so when preparing for this world you find yourself in, it is something none of us are prepared for.

This photo is of Lizzie stood outside Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust main tower block. There are windows surrounded by blue cladding and Lizzie is wearing a blue facemask, floral t-shirt and grey cardigan. She has short brown hair.

What I haven’t stopped thinking about is the hundreds and thousands of people who have been diagnosed in the last three months during this pandemic and how being hit with cancer diagnosis in the midst of minimal community support and with the global pandemic of fear, must be ever so frightening. Because they won’t even have found their ‘normal’ in the cancer community and the fear of infection mixed with treatment and recovery is terrifying.  However, there are positive stories.

“People are being treated and people are living with cancer through Covid-19.  I am living proof.”

My story through Covid-19 started with brain surgery on Monday 6 April.  First week of lock down!  What a way to begin!  It was expected but unexpected and that unfortunately is the world of cancer.  You think you are on a path and it can change instantly with no notice just like diagnosis, it comes out of nowhere!  Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe you knew something wasn’t right a long time ago and just ignored the symptoms.  Maybe you have symptoms right now but are putting it to the side because you fear entering a hospital or GP setting or perhaps you are fearing what they might say.

If you look at national statistics right now the probability of having cancer is much higher than having Covid-19.  But are you driven by statistics?  Unfortunately, as a society we let numbers rule us and not our heads and even less likely our common sense.  So when I got the phone call four days before to say, ‘You have 24 hours to decide Mrs P whether you are going forward with brain surgery on Monday at 7am, and I will ring you Sunday night to confirm that I am ready to see you 7am on the operating table’.  Bear in mind the world was shutting down that week and patients where coming in thick and fast. This potentially was a very daunting prospect.

What went through my mind? I needed the surgery. That was not up for negotiation.  Three months of living with this tumour could have a dire outcomes without surgery.  It was a mass and it was operable and the surgeon was positive it could come out successfully but obviously surgery comes with its own risks and then the added risk of infection.  I have been on a Therapeutic diet now for a while which sees my blood profile as being very positive so this made me more positive that my immune system was strong enough to cope.  If I contracted Covid-19 I wouldn’t avoid the hospital because that is the best place to be and there are plenty of other highly infectious viruses and diseases in society that one can catch in a community of people.

I have faith too and this is what I went with. Also with the knowledge that through treatment last year, when my bloods were pretty thin to say the least, and I needed transfusions, I didn’t avoid treatment once or entering the hospital environment then, and I was at much greater risk of infection last July with my lack of immunity or blood stability.  You are well looked after and they really are doing their best to keep you contained and everyone else.  In fact this year the environment was much better regarding contamination and infection.

This is a photo of Lizzie who is living with brain cancer during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lizzie is on a hospital bed and the image is of her shoulders and head. She is wearing a hospital gown, blue face mask and has a bandage around the top of her head. She is looking at the camera.

So I climbed my way onto the surgery table at 7am on Monday 6 April and I walked out of Hull Royal Infirmary on Tuesday 7 April and had tea with my kids at the table that evening just like ‘normal’!  Success again!  I couldn’t have any visitors while I was there, but I was fine with that and it was very surreal waking up after surgery to face masks but think of the positives.  I didn’t have to worry about any of my family being at risk and the visors etc just reminded me how much care the nurses are taking to ensure you are not at risk of infection.  They are not enjoying this, as it is not their natural bedside manner but they still continued to care as best they could in the circumstances. I couldn’t have asked for better care.

This is a photo of Lizzie who is wearing a green jumper and is sat in front of a window. The sun is shining through the window and is a photo frame and vase in the background. Lizzie is looking at the camera and smiling. She has a bandage around the top of her head.

Returning home to recover in lockdown has had its ups and downs.  The initial thing that was really hard to deal with was that we all felt that we were starting again.  Life was turned upside down the first time and we worked hard to find a new ‘normal’ and then again that got thrown up in the air.

The support that once was, had changed again. So with talking to friends and family we found our support network again because there are plenty of people who want to help.  The thing that I have learnt through this is that people can’t read minds and you have to ask for help! Once you ask, you really will find that people want to help you.  You just need to ask the right people.

So all in all I think I can say so far that I am living and recovering well with cancer through Covid-19 and it hasn’t been in any way that bad despite surgery right at the beginning.

My points to everyone in this piece are:

  If you have symptoms that you are concerned about then contact your GP surgery because cancer doesn’t disappear on its own and you are safer getting treated than not.  Time is of the essence in diagnosis.  Don’t sit on it.

Hospital admission is scary but read the positive stories.  Hundreds of people are entering hospitals everyday and coming out better for treatment.

If you or anyone you know has cancer and you want to do something to put yourself in the best possible position.  Research the best possible lifestyle and diet/nutrition for your condition.  Get your body in the best possible health and prepare your body for treatment.

Finally believe that you are going to be fine and even in the darkest hours have faith that you can do this.

If we could bottle positivity, it would be the best medicine on the shelf.

Lastly, If you felt that this post helped you in anyway follow my blog on Facebook GameChanger where I discuss the ins and outs of living through adversity in the most positive way possible.

“It’s about living your best life possible despite the forecast.”

Thank you to Lizzie for sharing her experience of living with cancer through Covid-19. If you would like to follow Lizzie on Facebook, please click here.

Photo of Lizzie, who is living with cancer through Covid-19. Lizzie is wearing a red t-shirt with Brain Tumour charity logo on it. She has short brown hair and is smiling with the sun shining in the top right hand side of the image.
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