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'I don’t know if I will survive this pandemic, and if I do I don’t know if my chances of beating cancer have been destroyed by it'




Beth Purvis, a 40-year-old married mother of two who lives in Henham, writes for the Bishop's Stortford Independent about living with stage 4 cancer...

I really wanted to write something non-coronavirus related, but sorry, I can’t. All our worlds have been turned upside down and we seem to be living in the middle of a Hollywood movie.

We started out laughing about it, washing our hands and singing Happy Birthday, wondering why toilet roll was such a precious commodity. We’re not laughing now – well, I’m certainly not.

When they started cancelling flights and holidays, things got a little annoying; people stranded in far-flung corners of the world or just stuck at home instead of sunning themselves. Costly and annoying. Then the long looked forward to events of spring and early summer started announcing they couldn’t go ahead... it was like the fun police had taken control.

Things really started to feel serious when we were told to work from home, avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants etc. Oddly, the kids were still going to school, so it couldn’t really be that bad, could it?

Yes, it could. The over-70s and those with underlying health conditions were to be isolated even further from society than usual. Then they did close schools – yep, definitely serious. People still weren’t listening, so now they’ve told the pubs, cafés, gyms etc they must close.

Things have really hit home for me now. You know that operation that I was so pleased to have a date for... the one to remove a tumour from my lung? Well, I don’t have a date any more. My operation has been cancelled because of coronavirus. So now I don’t know when my operation will be, or even if I will still be operable when they are ready to think about rescheduling.

Logically and rationally I know that an operation on my lungs would put me at huge risk if I contracted coronavirus, and I also know that the expertise and equipment at the hospital are desperately needed to help people whose lives are at imminent risk. I know the NHS is making impossible decisions in unprecedented times and just doing the best they can.

Emotionally, I am devastated and totally drained. I have been suddenly plunged into a situation where I don’t know when or even if I will get my operation.

There is so much I don’t know right now. I feel totally lost. I don’t know which way to turn.

Usually, if something changes in my care, if I am told 'no', there is something I can do. Usually I would do some research, I would push my team for answers, I would put ideas to them and ask them to explore options. Usually I can help myself in some way; usually I can fight for me. Right now I can’t do anything, right now all options increase my risk, right now no one is listening to me because they are too busy trying to work out how to deal with coronavirus.

I have spent the last three-and-a-half years doing everything I can to stay alive, to have more time with my husband and children. I have fought for life-saving treatment, I have shaped my own treatment plan, I have researched and been my own advocate throughout. I am used to taking control of my situation as much as possible, but this... this is out of everyone’s hands.

Well, I say it’s out of everyone’s hands, but actually it is in everyone’s hands. Each and every person in this country has a part to play in getting this virus under control.

I beg you, please follow the Government guidance: wash your hands, avoid non-essential contact with other people, please work from home if you can, keep your distance when you leave your house and shop as you normally would – you do not need eleventy billion loo rolls!

Think you’re OK? Think you don’t have a health condition so why should you stay at home? Well, you might be OK if you get coronavirus, but you can pass it on – and you can pass it on to someone who won’t be OK.

If we don’t start listening it might not be coronavirus that kills many of us, but a simple lack of treatment for our current health conditions, because right now our NHS cannot cope.

You might not need the NHS right now, but you might in future. If you ever find yourself needing treatment of any sort, I genuinely hope there are health workers available to care for you.

The only way we can be sure of that is to get on top of this virus. The only way to get on top of this virus is to stay home as much as possible.

I don’t know if I will survive this pandemic, and if I do I don’t know if my chances of beating cancer have been destroyed by it.

I do know that I am relying on each and every one of you doing the right thing and not going out unless you absolutely have to if I am to have any chance of watching my babies grow up.



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