Friday Frontline: Cancer Updates Amid COVID-19 Pandemic on March 13, 2020

March 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached across the globe and continues to change, rapidly impacting everyone. Here are some of the stories around the world highlighting how the pandemic has impacted the lives of patients with cancer.

After almost three weeks, Judy McClelland and her husband were let out of quarantine on the Grand Princess cruise ship where 21 people on board tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus) — to move to a military base in Georgia for 14 days under further quarantine.

McClelland is a stage 4 metastatic breast cancer patient who is considered high risk for infection, and due to the delay of her trip and quarantine, is missing her next round of chemotherapy. Her treatments are meant to keep her stable as the illness is incurable.

In a previous interview while aboard the cruise ship, McClelland said they were given minimal information during quarantine in their cabins, where she was lucky to have her balcony for some fresh air. McClelland and her husband David scheduled the vacation in between her chemotherapy sessions, prior to COVID-19 becoming a global outbreak.

“It’s atrocious, I understand what they’re doing is a logistical nightmare, but it’s not working, the process they’re doing is not working,” Meghan White, one of their daughters, said in an interview. According to White, the couple was told they would be let off the ship two days prior to being moved to the base. McClelland and her husband have been tested for the virus, but no results have been shared.

For one 8-year-old patient with brain cancer, the shortage of medical masks available to the public is becoming a pressing concern, as more people buy them out of fear of COVID-19.

When news of COVID-19 first broke, many people began buying medical masks believing it would help to prevent the spread of the virus, leaving medical professionals with a supply shortage and high-risk patients like Landon Hartman without many options.

The preferred mask for Nikki Byars, Hartman’s mother, is a Vogmask that her son wears every time they leave the house.

“I’ve been trying to order since like mid-February and I can’t get my hands on one,” Byars said in an interview. “All the families [cancer families] that are going through this. We need them. You know, we absolutely need them.”

The family has surgical masks as back up, but these masks are not as effective for Landon when going out.

In Northampton General Hospital in the United Kingdom, an EMT shared an impassioned post about thieves stealing a hand sanitizer dispenser in the cancer ward of the hospital.

Thanks to a rush on hand sanitizer, leading to shortages and rising prices for available supply, a spokesperson from the hospital revealed that they have been experiencing a lot of hand sanitizer dispensers disappearing from welcome desks and patient’s bedsides.

Without these dispensers for faculty and visitors’ patients at the hospital and cancer ward are at higher risk being exposed to more potential germs.

“Please help us to keep our patients safe by not removing the dispensers or using them to top up your own dispensers,” the hospital urged. As of this time, the thieves have not been identified.

A mother and her daughter with leukemia were blocked at a checkpoint in China trying to complete her daughter’s treatment, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Whuan.

At the checkpoint, Lu Yuejin and her daughter Hu Ping were seeking care outside of Whuan, when police told them to stop as they did not have the right pass to leave, even though certain individuals could leave due to medical reasons. Two Reuters photographers were on hand, and photographed Lu Yuejin crying and begging with authorities to let her daughter through.

The photograph went viral, but not until recently was their fate known. Reporters from the BBC followed up with Hu Ping’s fiancé Shi Xiaodi who said his mother in law and future wife were granted access across the checkpoint after pleading to authorities their situation.

"She is now getting good treatment," says Shi. "Because she is young, she is recovering quite well.”

For more on what patients with cancer need to know during the COVID-19 pandemic check back with CURE.


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