COVID-19 & Cancer: A Dangerous Duo

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash
As if living with cancer and its side-effects wasn’t tough enough already, COVID-19 making itself comfortable in the U.S. has made cancer patients far more uncomfortable. Ulman’s Patient Navigators have shared these collective observations and reflections from their work over the past several weeks.
Anxiety and “scanxiety” levels increase as elective or non-urgent procedures are delayed. Immunocompromised patients may find themselves exposed as protective gear and hand sanitizer is in short supply. Lay-offs and furloughs put insurance coverage in jeopardy for many folks dealing with cancer, and decreased income adds additional financial pressure to patients and families whose cancer-related expenses were already unimaginable. 
Said one of our Navigators, “I heard from a mother that she thought that cancer was the worst thing imaginable, but the possibility of her giving her immunocompromised child COVID-19 from her going in and out of the home for work is worse, but, as she stated, she doesn’t have a choice.”
Nonprofits are beginning to struggle in the wake of the negative economic impact of Coronavirus, so some resources that our Navigators typically refer clients to are not currently available. We’ve always been in the business of removing barriers to great care, and it seems more barriers are being added by the day lately. 
Inside the crowded hospitals, living with cancer is often heartbreakingly complicated. Visitors are strictly limited, excluding visits from siblings or loved ones under 18 completely.  Patients showing any symptoms of COVID-19 are isolated until results confirm the absence of the virus, even those who are nearing the end of life. 
Social distancing is encouraged among staff and patients even inside the hospital when possible. This makes it impossible for Ulman’s Patient Navigators and their colleagues to give hugs, to extend a hand, or to be that physical shoulder to lean on in times of distress. 
Cancer hasn’t stopped in the midst of Coronavirus. New cancer diagnoses continue to occur – even to a woman with several children and a live-in mother who continues to work as a home healthcare nurse.
The main things our Patient Navigators have taught us: Cancer doesn’t care about a global pandemic, and our patients need the support of their Navigators, and their tribe, more now than ever. So at Ulman, our resolve remains strong to maintain and increase where possible our operations and, as always, help adolescents and young adults live their best lives during and after cancer, no matter what life should throw at them! 

Update as of 4/1/2020: Throughout April, Adolescent & Young Adult Awareness Month, 20% of funds donated to the Ulman Foundation will be used to directly support AYA patients who have incurred Coronavirus-related expenses.  These Patient Assistance Funds help our clients with transportation to treatment, groceries, and utilities, and more.  Thank you for your generosity, which will help us go the extra mile to support our most vulnerable clients.  Learn more about how to get involved with #AYApril here.

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