Coping with COVID-19

Patient Perspective by Ken Graham

COVID-19 … as if cancer patients don’t have enough to stress about.   I am not sure if immunotherapy treatments put melanoma patients more at risk for COVID-19, but it worries me.  I had an MRI scan scheduled at Sunnybrook Hospital in April and I was anxious about the risk of catching COVID-19 during the hospital visit.   Before going to the hospital, I lowered my anxiety a notch by talking with other people who had recently visited hospitals and by leaning on family for support and encouragement. 

When I arrived at Sunnybrook on Sunday wearing my mask and gloves, I was questioned at the main entrance and then directed to the MRI area.  Two-thirds of the chairs in the waiting area were taped off, but there was no one else in the waiting room anyway.  All the medical staff wore masks and gloves and some wore face shields.  They looked confident and it wore off on me.  Despite the muffled communications, everything went smoothly and I left feeling that I had not been infected.  To my surprise, I was in and out of the hospital in record time.  Maybe this is part of their strategy for reducing patient risk, or maybe it was fast because it was a Sunday.

Before and after a visit, hospitals try to make the process easy and safe.  Web -based hospital systems contain appointments and instructions on where to go and what to expect under the new COVID-19 protocol.  The medical results are then posted on the same system and follow-up meetings are held with physicians using video technology.

For melanoma patients looking for resources to cope with COVID-19 induced stress, I recommend the following:

  • Attend Melanoma Network Support group meetings that are now being held online where you can talk to other melanoma patients and get advice from a Patient Care Specialist.
  • Talk directly over the phone to the Melanoma Network Patient Care Specialist.
  • Talk to your Cancer Care unit.
  • Look at your hospital website and read the instructions that are in your appointment confirmation.
  • Talk to family and friends for support and advice.

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