I hope everyone is doing ok adjusting to this new normal in such unprecedented times.

I woke up this morning to an email regarding a young mother who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to go to the initial appointment without her husband due to COVID restrictions. Those first few appointments when you are first diagnosed are truly scary and overwhelming – and she’s facing them on her own even though the recommendation we make is to always take someone with you. 

We get it. I spoke to a leading medical oncologist today. She said cancer patients on active treatment, even post-surgical patients, are at high risk of having COVID complications.  So hospitals are trying to decrease the spread of the infection. This means cancer surgeries are being triaged on a daily basis. All hospitals have implemented a no visitor policy, with some extenuating circumstances (language barrier, cognition/mental health, mobility). Also, some oncologists have moved their clinics virtually with video-streaming check ins for those on oral chemotherapy and some follow-ups. When clinically safe, radiology scans have been delayed, along with breast screening including the high-risk screening programs, to minimize hospital traffic and risk of infection. While I get it, I also get the frightening impact on cancer patients. Imagine being diagnosed and your scheduled mastectomy is postponed? It’s happening. This is COVID.

I’m so proud of and inspired by all the smart, compassionate, dedicated women and men on the front lines of our healthcare system. I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on social media from physicians in Italy and other parts of the world. They are absolutely heroes in this. I hope and pray our Canadian frontline healthcare workers, benefiting from a little more time to prepare, don’t have to be as heroic.

As for the rest of us, we are doing our best. The physical, emotional, practical and financial toll that the pandemic is having around the world is difficult to even grasp. And that means as individuals, and as organizations, we’re faced with responding to something we can’t even really grasp. At Rethink, we are finding a way forward to support and empower our community who need us now more than ever.

Charities are being hit hard with events and fundraisers halted. Just like other companies, many of us running charities will be making tough decisions in order to keep operations going. I do believe this is not forever, even though I also think we are all changed forever. How could we not be?

On the other hand, some, shockingly, are still not really changing their behavior. Not socially distancing. Not staying home.

This is terrifying for so many women in our community, especially those in active treatment who are currently immunocompromised.

I got an email yesterday from a young woman in our network who is metastatic. She lives in a rural area in B.C. and she is having to decide whether to go to my local hospital for Faslodex and risk COVID exposure or find someone else who is able to do it (administer the injection) since GPs are not seeing patients and cancer clinic will not do it.” As a metastatic patient, she was also hoping to access a drug she doesn’t directly qualify for through a clinical trial. For her “I am in limbo. Trials are closed.” 

She also expressed frustration that health officers in B.C. are mentioning seniors as vulnerable during press conferences but failing to also mention those of all ages in cancer treatment or who are immunocompromised. She essentially put her hand up and said “please use me” if you need to make a case for people to take staying home seriously.

“The sooner COVID is under control, the sooner cancer patients can get the life prolonging treatments they already needed before COVID entered our world. The sooner there is nationwide compliance, the sooner cancer clinics can continue giving us the necessary medicines we need to survive what we are already facing.”  

We know what cancer patients of all ages face and endure. We see how COVID is impacting our community. The added anxiety of treatment or delays to treatment during COVID is not to be underestimated.

And yet, there are still some who would not “stay home” so that women who are already frightened and at risk don’t have to worry about careless people on top of everything.

I’m asking you to join me and the Rethink community to inspire everyone to do the right thing. Will you join me in participating in #stayhomeforcancer on social media?

You will be motivating those not yet staying home to do so. You’ll be motivating those who need to keep on staying home as isolation fatigue sets in; and, you’ll be helping Rethink secure much needed funding. With the help of some of our longstanding partners,every time someone participates using the hashtag #StayHomeForCancer,$5 will go to Rethink.

We really need the funds to support our community and our community really needs people to stay home. Win win.

Here’s how you can do your part:

1. Grab a marker and piece of paper and write down why you #StayHomeForCancer. Some ideas: 

  • #StayHomeForCancer so the healthcare system doesn’t have to choose who to treat first
  • #StayHomeForCancer to help keep me and other young people going through cancer treatments safe and strong
  • #StayHomeForCancer for my friends who are immunocompromised
  • #StayHomeForCancer…
    For those of us who are immunocomprimised and fearing for our lives
    For those of use who have to travel to the hospital for treatment
    For those of us who need everyone to do the right thing

2. Take a picture holding your paper. Here’s an idea of what it should look like:

3. Post on your social media channel of choice, tagging Rethink and using the hashtag #StayHomeForCancer 

Thank you!

– MJ DeCoteau

You may also be interested in

MISSION: Recovery – The Discovery
Rethinker Profile: Diva’s Run by GWN Events
Guideline #1 For Young Women With Breast Cancer: Understanding Unique Needs
50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

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