Column: Going it alone at chemotherapy

If you have to have chemotherapy, the Charleston Area Medical Center Cancer is as nice a place to have it as you could ask for. 

I remember writing about the Cancer Center’s fundraising and development on the site of the old Watt Powell Park when I was a reporter. Now I’m at the Cancer Center once a week for chemotherapy, plus for the occasional checkup with my oncologist. 

As you walk through the door, you see a big wall of windows and a chandelier above a comfortable looking seating area on the first floor. The second floor has a nice patio area that I’ve never been on. 

On chemotherapy days, I sit in a recliner in my own little station with a television and a remote control. 

The nurses offer me warm blankets and sometimes snacks. I’m separated from other patients with a glass panel to one side and an aisle to the other. It’s comfortable.

In the time of COVID-19 though, the Cancer Center can be a lonely place, as well. 

A big red sign sitting at the entrance to the hospital warns “COVID ALERT. No visitors are permitted.” Hospital workers take your temperature and screen you with questions about potential exposure to the virus with each visit you make. 

Cancer patients have to be even more careful during this time to avoid getting COVID-19. Chemotherapy can make your immune system compromised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that some cancer patients are more likely to experience complications from COVID-19.  So I’m glad the hospital is taking extra precautions to keep us all safe. 

The no-visitor policy means chemotherapy patients attend their infusions alone. (I’m assuming there may be some exceptions to that with patients who are sicker than me.)

Once I got a message from CAMC that patients could bring one visitor with them. My mom drives in from Kentucky each week to drop me off and pick me up, so I invited her to come with me that week. Then I discovered that it didn’t apply to the Cancer Center. That makes sense to me. I figure it will be a while before that’s an option for cancer patients again.

In the waiting room, we wear masks. To encourage social distancing, only some seats are available to sit in. That makes it difficult to strike up conversations with people beside you in the waiting room. Last week I wanted to tell a fellow patient how much I liked her floral printed face mask. I figured we might have a lot to talk about. But there wasn’t a good way of getting her attention, so I let it slide. 

Some cancer patients might be bothered that they can’t take someone to chemotherapy.  Many people drive much further than me for their appointments, and the company might be nice. 

But I don’t mind going to chemotherapy treatments alone. Until I started using the cryotherapy gloves and socks, I would bring a work computer and answer emails and do what I can. It’s a nice and quiet place to work. 


Speaking of cryotherapy, I gave it another shot last week and again I hated the cold. I also worried a little bit about restricting blood flow to my hands and feet during chemotherapy. I don’t want to do anything to prevent the chemotherapy drugs from doing their job and killing any possible cancer cell in my body. But one of my favorite doctors assured me this week that wearing the gloves and socks on my hands and feet is not likely to prevent the drugs from doing their jobs. Especially since my cancer was in my breast. So I’ll try again.

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