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The cancer patient: 'I'm trying to stay confident but i worry for my family'


Maria Fleming. Pic: Mark Condren

Maria Fleming. Pic: Mark Condren

Maria Fleming. Pic: Mark Condren

Maria Fleming had finished chemotherapy for breast cancer three weeks ago and was about start radiotherapy when the coronavirus began to take hold in Ireland.

Hospitals have shut their doors to visitors and patients are being moved out to make space for the expected surge in patients. As if that were not foreboding enough, her immune system is compromised, and she could be vulnerable to infection. "Starting four weeks' radio therapy in the midst of a pandemic is scary as sh*t," she tweeted last week, a post that received more than 2,000 "likes".

Maria, who lives in East Wall in Dublin, with her two daughters and her partner, attends St Luke's, a dedicated cancer facility, for radiotherapy. She attends Beaumont, an acute hospital that cares for a number of Covid-19 patients, for her three-weekly Herceptin drug treatments. The infection controls are understandably strict. She was advised to go to a back entrance of the hospital. "My partner was directed to drive me to the back door and not to get out of the car," she said.

In a place that is normally buzzing with life, there were few patients, just Maria and an older woman who chatted from a metre's distance to keep each other company. "There's a really nice camaraderie on the oncology ward." She says it can be difficult for older people to manage their anxiety, especially in situations where everything is a bit heightened. But the staff are fantastic. "They are putting themselves on the line for us by turning up for work every single day," she said.

As for herself: "I am aware there is a strong possibility that should I contract the virus, I will end up very sick. I have to have confidence in the healthcare teams. I'm trying to stay confident. But, of course, I have a worry for my family."

Sunday Independent