The COVID-19 pandemic upended our usual routine and impacted all of our lives. For people that needed medical treatment it became a different experience. Having treatment for anything but coronavirus related illness became the exception. No visitors were allowed in the hospitals for patients no matter what their diagnosis. Many people put off necessary treatment for a later time. Facing cancer at any time is frightening. Facing treatment for a rare cancer such as malignant mesothelioma, alone without your loved ones, can add another layer of stress.
Reading and hearing about people’s experiences you think would prepare you for seeing it in person. Whether it is physical or psychological the suffering is real.
Our patient was a middle aged man who has malignant pleural mesothelioma. His presenting symptom was a cough that would not go away. He was worked up for it and he was a surgical candidate which he opted to have. The time between his symptoms and being diagnosed was a few months. Things were on track for surgery, and he lived locally near his Mesothelioma Center. Things were lining up for him in a timely fashion, but then the pandemic came and things changed.
It is known that patients facing a cancer diagnosis do better with family support. Since most cancer treatment is on an outpatient basis that is where the majority of support happens. However, the period in the hospital is unfamiliar and frightening – it can be terrifying. Our patient was dropped at the hospital and stayed in for greater than 30 days. He had a support system, but no visitors were allowed into the hospital. For his inpatient stay he remembers being confused, afraid, and convinced that he was dying. During this month-long stay he praised the staff of the hospital, but explained that not to see your loved ones when you are confused was too much. Frequent phone calls were no substitute for seeing someone who is supporting you through this stressful time. His hospital course was complicated and since discharge he has been experiencing many different emotions. Usually someone in control of his emotions, he finds himself crying frequently and unexpectedly. As he is processing this trauma he and his loved ones are realizing what an important part that support plays in a person’s physical and psychological recovery.
Treatment for mesothelioma is difficult under the best of circumstances but during the pandemic it became harder. As people start to come for specialized treatment to a Mesothelioma Center of Excellence please know that their team is very tuned in to how vital support from their loved ones is during this time.