COVID-19: Survivor, Shelter in Place and Keep your Distance

A few days ago, I wrote about COVID-19 and the ‘Vulnerables’. Long term survivor of childhood cancer, adolescent cancer, and young adult cancer, it is ESSENTIAL to our wellness that we ’shelter in place’ AND master the fine art of ’social distancing’.

I’d like to emphasize once again the need for calm to prevail in response to COVID-19, yet I also want us to be educated and equipped about our unique risk factors.

Survivors, we are more susceptible to COVID-19 AND more likely to encounter potentially life threatening complications [some more so than others] depending on specific treatment regimens and the presence of late effects. 

Treatment-related Risk Factors include: [this is not an exhaustive list]

  • Chest radiation [whole lung, mantle, mini mantle]
  • Anthracycline and/or radiation-related cardiac injury or damage [doxorubicin, actinmoycin-d, idarubicin, epirubicin, mitoxantrone]
  • Lung fibrosis related to bleomycin
  • Total Body Irradiation as part of your conditioning regimen for Bone Marrow Transplant

At risk diagnoses: [not exhaustive]

  • Solid tumors like the sarcomas of the chest wall
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Treatment-related breast cancer

Potential Underlying Conditions: [again, not exhaustive]

  • Immune Compromise
  • Diabetes
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis (scarring of the lungs)
  • Restrictive or Obstructive Lung Disease
  • Cardiomyopathy (a weakening of the heart muscle)
  • Solid Organ Transplant
  • Graft v. Host Disease

Most of us have at least one underlying condition whether it has been diagnosed or not depends on long term  follow up, knowledge of personal treatment risk, and the expertise of your primary healthcare provider regarding potential late effects and adherence to screening guidelines.

While this is an extreme circumstance, I am going to use it to drive home the import of having a cancer treatment summary, actually multiple copies, in your possession. It should be  easily accessible and handed to your intake healthcare provider to ensure you are assessed and treated appropriately given your history of cancer and the treatment you received.

I can not state this strongly enough anyone and everyone who takes charge of your care MUST treat you with full knowledge of your medical history.

Diagnosis and end of treatment are but 2 chapters in the book of survivorship and the potential late effects of its treatment. Oh, how I long for the day when we are relieved of the concern of late effects.

I urge you to shelter in place and keep your distance; be well!




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