Cancer during the time of COVID-19

History is now: Covid 19 Blog.

History is now: Covid 19 Blog.

Real Community Stories from the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

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We are living in a historic moment. The Minnesota Historical Society is collecting and preserving Minnesotans’ stories related to the COVID-19 health crisis so future generations can learn how the pandemic has impacted our lives. We invite you to read a sampling of these stories here and to share your story.

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Cancer during the time of COVID-19

By: Public contributor | June 23, 2020

I have faithfully gotten my annual mammogram every year since I was 40, and that was 10 years ago. I went in for this year's mammogram on March 9, 2020. The next day a nurse contacted me because they found a change in my right breast. Within two days, I ended up having a biopsy and received the call - it was cancer.

There is no history of cancer in my family, and I come from two large Catholic families consisting of lots of women. :) 

It was determined I had micro-invasive ductal carcinoma; associated DCIS grade 3 with associated calcifications and necrosis HER2 positive. Without going into a lot of detail, it basically meant the biopsy showed cancer, with surrounding cells either being cancerous themselves or precancerous.

That same weekend, as I was trying to wrap my head around my diagnosis, the COVID-19 health crisis blew up. As my world came crashing down, so did the country's, with the world already in the midst of it.

On March 17, my husband and I met with my surgeon and scheduled a lumpectomy a week later. I was cautioned that the surgery may be postponed due to supplies, beds, and staff being reserved for COVID-19 patients. My best friend is a respiratory therapist who has been working tirelessly during this national crisis so I understood the necessity to keep both hospital staff and patients safe.

March 23, two days before my surgery, I received bad news. My surgery would be canceled until further notice, as all other breast surgeries (and presumably the majority of other kinds of surgeries) were. My surgeon suggested I could start taking anti-estrogen pills along with chemotherapy, and by the time I saw her all of the cancer may be gone. Without surgery, however, there was no way to know if the remaining cells in my breast were cancerous or not. I didn't want to put my body through chemo if it wasn't needed.

We met with an oncologist the next day, who turned out to be amazing. She fought for me and surgery was scheduled for that Friday, March 27.

My surgeon and the entire health care team were incredible. I received a call two days later that they removed everything and determined all cells were precancerous. I was still put on the anti-estrogen pills and will need approximately four weeks of radiation, but no chemotherapy. 

My heart goes out to every breast cancer patient - as well as all other patients - who have had their surgery postponed. I pray for them as I do all people who have battled and been affected by COVID-19, including the doctors and nurses on the front lines. I feel fortunate to live in Minnesota, a state with one of the best health care systems in the country. 

~ Submitted by Teri