Column: Thoughts on a fate worse than cancer during a pandemic

I realized recently I’ve been looking at the timing of my cancer diagnosis all wrong. I found out the lump in my breast was cancer March 20, the same day the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Kanawha County. I thought being diagnosed with cancer in the midst of a pandemic was tragic timing.
At the time, all I could think of was that going through chemotherapy treatments that would compromise my immune system at the same time there’s a highly contagious, potentially deadly, virus going around would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
(It still might be, but I’m staying home, wearing a mask, washing my hands and using sanitizer and basically doing everything I can to avoid COVID-19. So far, so good.)
Cancer’s always bad news, but it took reading an op-ed written by Dr. Sherri Young, my boss and the health officer for Kanawha County, and Monica Mason, education director for the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, to make me realize that the timing could have been worse.
When the pandemic started, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that doctors delay routine or non-emergency care of patients for a time in order to mitigate the spread of the disease in hospitals and preserve masks and other equipment to be used during the pandemic.
So while cancer is always bad news, the timing could have been much worse. My tests could have been put off. Or fear of COVID-19 could have caused me to stay away from doctors’ offices.
My doctors found my cancer at stage 2. Had I put off those tests for later because of COVID-19, at what stage might the doctors have found it? Timeliness is so important when you’re talking about cancer. It can mean the difference between life and death.
All that to say, take it from me, go to the doctor. Get your mammograms and other cancer screenings. Don’t let COVID-19 take more than it already has.
I’’m 35 years old. Regular mammograms aren’t even recommended for women until age 40. My cancer was diagnosed after I found the tumor. Breast cancer is the last thing I thought I expected this year. Cancer doesn’t seem to run in my family. I only found out recently that I had an aunt who also had breast cancer.
So, even if you think it can’t happen to you, it can. Don’t put off cancer screenings and other doctor’s visits. Wear your mask, stay six feet away from other patients and use your hand sanitizer when you go, but don’t put off going to the doctor.

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