Little did 51-year-old Deirdre Smyth from Meath know that when she started chemotherapy in December, it would finish in the surreal circumstances of a global pandemic.
Deirdre had been preparing for a scheduled colonoscopy when her symptoms escalated and she had to go to the Emergency Department.
Doctors eventually discovered a tumour which required the removal of a 10cm section of her bowel followed by 12 sessions of chemotherapy.
As the Covid-19 outbreak began to unfold in Ireland Deirdre says her treatment continued in much the same manner as it had before, albeit with some exceptions.
“I had no delays to treatment but we weren’t allowed to bring anyone with us into our appointments,” she remembers.
We’re really relying on others to take personal responsibility and do the right things
“That didn’t make any huge difference to me because the nurses and care assistants were so friendly. I went back to get my pump removed after chemo a few weeks ago and I left the hospital in tears. Anyone would think that I got some bad news, but really the nurses were so brilliant and positive and I was sad to leave them.”
Deirdre is conscious that she was one of the lucky ones to have been able to continue her treatment, avoid severe side-effects that might require extra care, and to have the help and support of her family and friends at hand throughout.
“I had no temperatures or other issues throughout my chemo so I wasn’t in hospital with that, and my two sons were with me the whole time. Every second week I had to go up to hospital, and it actually broke up the time nicely to be honest. I’ve been very lucky.”
Deirdre’s recovery has been going well after recently finishing her chemotherapy, but she is mindful of the need to stay safe given the ever-present danger posed to current and recent cancer patients by Covid-19.
“I’m taking all the precautions I need to when I go out now, but we’re really relying on others to take personal responsibility and do the right things to help stop infections spreading again. It’s reassuring to see people wearing masks in shops and we all have a part to play to protect those in our society who are vulnerable.”
If you or someone in your life is undergoing cancer treatment and are concerned about the coronavirus, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm