I have a friend who is from Wuhan, China. I interviewed her about her life in Wuhan before and during the epidemic, especially as a lung cancer caregiver. My friend was such a strong lady.
1). Can you first introduce your family?
At the age of 42, my husband has diagnosed with Stage 3B lung cancer in the summer of 2018. He had surgery, chemotherapy and later radiotherapy. We have two young children. I have to give up my career to look after my husband and raise two kids.
In November 2019, my husband’s lung cancer was metastatic to thoracic-vertebral, which further caused compressive fracture on his spine. He had to surgically remove the thoracic vertebral body and fix it with internal titanium alloy. My husband had a painful recovery, and it took more than two months. Within those two months, he couldn’t move not mentioning he couldn’t walk, eat and dress. Two months later, he gradually recovered, and now he walked on the treadmill 5 to 8 km every day. My husband did biomarker testing after the surgery and found ROS1+ lung cancer. He was on Crizontinib till now.
After several months of recovery of the surgery, my husband suffered not only physically but also mentally. He couldn’t continue to work. So we have to sell the house to pay for the treatment.
2) Can you talk about what happened in Wuhan at the beginning of COVID-19? Have you noticed anything different?
From mid of November to December 27, 2019, my husband stayed in Wuhan Xiehe Hospital (Author: one of the best hospitals in Wuhan). We had not heard or seen anything related to coronavirus. We did not notice anything abnormal.
On December 27, my children’s school had flu spread, and the classes were cancelled. Every winter, we always had flu, so it did not get our attention. And soon, the school restarted. At January, more and more people had a fever and had to visit doctors.
Until mid of January 2020, although there was no official notification, there were a lot of rumours that epidemic occurred at Wuhan. On January 18, the officials from the central government visited hospitals in Wuhan. On January 20, it was announced that the virus passed from human to human. Wuhan city was totally in panic and chaos. Everybody wore masks and stayed home. January 23, Wuhan city announced to shut down.
3) After COVID-19 epidemic broke out, how did you manage and how was Wuhan?
At the beginning of COVID-19, the hospitals were chaotic. There were not enough staffs, beds and equipment. The patients couldn’t enter the hospitals when needed. Both the health care workers and patients were under extremely high stress.
The Wuhan government adopted all kind of measures to ease the pressure on doctors and nurses and to keep the operation of the hospitals. For example, the hospitals accepted COVID-19 patients as much as the possible and reduced source of infection. Meanwhile, the residential areas were totally blocked. The residents could not go outside. Several people from each neighbourhood were selected to take the responsibility to purchase daily food and goods for the residents. Many people volunteered to help others.
At this time, a lot of doctors saw their patients used the internet. If the patients needed to go to hospitals, the ambulances would take the patients. Once the patients got to the hospitals, they would check with coronavirus first.
4）How did COVID-19 effect lung cancer patients?
For long-term patients like us who need the medication, the government rule was that the specified community volunteers would go to drug stores to fill up the prescriptions on behalf of the patients and caregivers. Then they would deliver the medications to the patients.
Meanwhile, the doctors saw lung cancer patients through the internet. The patients showed the previous medical documents and consulted with the doctors. The doctors faxed the prescriptions to the patients if needed, and volunteers could purchase the drugs for the patients, or the medication could be delivered to the patients by the drug stores.
Because the hospitals were used for COVID-19 patients and the entire community was blocked, my husband’s doctor suggested to postpone the appointments. My husband felt ok physically and considering the benefit and harm, so his doctor postponed his future checkup. For oral medication like my husband on targeted therapy, we didn’t have any delays, and we could have two prescriptions of Crizontanib filled at once.
5) Some protection methods used.
There are several protective measures we used during a pandemic.
- It’s crucial to wear masks. When we go outside, we have to wear masks. N95 masks are used by first-line doctors and nurses, but we also had access to N95 masks. Generally, we used the protective masks, not necessary N95 masks, but it was the rule that everybody must use masks to go to the public place, like supermarket, hospitals…
- Keep social distance, no getting together and reducing to go outdoor whenever possible.
- During the epidemic, for any purchased goods necessary for life, I always first wiped the packages using 75% alcohol and then wash then using warm water.
6) Last words
Take COVID-19 epidemic seriously, but don’t be panic. Take good care of yourselves, exercising and eating good food. Stay home, don’t go outside unless it’s necessary. Keep good personal hygiene. Always wear masks. COVID-19 attacks the lung, and as lung cancer patients, our lung function has already been compromised.
Life is not easy, but we still have to move on. Take good care of yourselves!
My friend HaoPei (斐皓) is a Stage 4 lung cancer patient, 38 years old. He passed away in early February 2020. These pictures were taken by him when he travelled in rural China after his diagnosis. 斐皓, 一路走好。