Cancer patients are having their treatment cancelled already – just a WEEK into second Covid lockdown
WE’RE just days in the second Covid lockdown and already, I am scared.
I’m terrified for the lives of cancer patients like me.
I am really lucky that during the first lockdown and so far during this one, I have been able to carry on my regular treatment.
But I have been inundated with messages from people who have had screening, follow ups and treatment cancelled.
For tens of thousands of cancer patients this isn’t just about Covid. I’m haunted by what happened last time around.
I have friends who didn’t survive the first lockdown.
I have friends who are now facing uncertain futures because their treatment was delayed during the first peak.
Then there are tens of thousands of people who put off going to see their GP.
Some of them will now be living with later stage cancers, that could’ve been avoided had they been detected earlier.
We could be left with thousands more people having their cancer diagnosed too late
During the first lockdown, in just one month we saw cancer referrals drop by 75 per cent on the previous year.
I know this time it’s only meant to last four weeks, but I am scared the same will happen again.
What if people put off going to see their GP, thinking that a lump or change in toilet habits can wait a few weeks?
We could be left with thousands more people having their cancer diagnosed too late.
We could see thousands more cancer deaths because people haven’t had the treatment they need, when they need it.
The battle might already be lost
One recent estimate, from the charity Macmillan is that we could see 50,000 extra deaths this year from cancer alone, as a result of Covid.
And that was before lockdown 2.0.
I watched and listened as Boris Johnson and Sir Simon Stevens urged people to stay at home so we can protect the NHS.
They vowed that this time around lockdown is necessary because we need to make sure other, non-Covid services can carry on throughout winter.
Every single year the NHS nearly collapses under the weight of winter pressures – even without the added nightmare of Covid to contend with.
So, in a way, I get it. I understand that we have to do something to ensure that the health service can cope as Covid infections spike again.
I hope that the politicians and experts are right, and this four-week lockdown can ease the pressure and save the NHS from collapse.
But, the messages I am already getting from people in the cancer community, suggest that battle might already be lost.
Operations are already being postponed, GP appointments are online only and routine check ups are being pushed back.
It all feels horribly familiar… like we are creeping towards a situation where all the NHS can do is look after Covid patients.
Covid isn't the only tragedy
I have so many questions, and I know the answers aren’t easy.
But, surely we need to see vital cancer services ring fenced through any future lockdowns.
If we can build seven Nightingale Hospitals out of nowhere in the face of the Covid threat, surely we can mobilise the same efforts to deal with cancer?
Cancer kills around 450 people every single day – that is 165,000 a year, according to Cancer Research UK.
Every death from Covid is one too many, it’s another family left heartbroken.
But we have to remember it is not the only tragedy.
As a cancer patient all I want to see and feel is that the disease that is going to claim my life too soon is given the same attention as Covid.
Where are our emergency meetings, press conferences and task forces?
Staying at home makes life even harder
Right now it feels like cancer patients are being forgotten – told to effectively shield again while we wait for the second wave to subside.
I don’t have the gift of time, every day that I am still alive is a bonus.
Like many incurable cancer patients, I live on borrowed time so being cooped up at home, not able to live my life feels even harder.
For me, Covid isn’t the biggest threat I face, it’s not the most dangerous thing I face.
For me, the treat of cancer eclipses the threat of Covid.
I hope this four week lockdown does what it’s designed to do, and I hope the NHS is given the reprieve it needs.
I hope when we come out the other side, we’re not in a worse situation.
What lockdown won’t change is the terror I feel, a fear that’s shared by millions living with other deadly diseases.
For us, this isn’t just about Covid. We don’t have time to wait, sitting at home.
We have other killers to face and right now, it feels like that is being forgotten.
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