Kathy Shea’s journey is often filled with uncertainty. This avid bird-watcher and lifelong birder never realized how much she loved nature until being diagnosed with cancer.
Shea’s world was shaken as soon as the pandemic started. Her news was received over the phone, as it happened to many Americans with cancer during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Cancer is lonely in general. However, it was lonely for cancer. I would drive myself to the hospital. She recalled that no one was there to help you.”
For the 1.8 million Americans like Shea diagnosed with cancer in 2020, it’s been particularly difficult, managing treatments while also trying to avoid COVID.
Even today, stress remains immense.
“I wouldn’t dream of going to a football game, a concert. That’s just too scary for me,” Shea added.
Cancer support groups have seen an increase in need during the pandemic.
Meg Koch manages the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden in Harvard (Massachusetts). There have been no significant changes in the seasons. Virtual team meetings can still be held. Because of the delta variant, all group therapy sessions as well as yoga must still be done online. It’s just not safe for people with compromised immune systems to gather.
“We deal with this type of rise and fall in hope and having it taken away. You don’t even try to hope. You keep your blinders on and stay where we are and it’s exhausting,” Koch said.
For Americans living with cancer, it’s been a long two years, and the need for cancer support groups only seems to be growing. Many people who have received their COVID-19 vaccine are finding out that chemotherapy can render the shot ineffective for certain patients.
“People’s needs are not being met in the way they use to,” Koch said.
It’s not all bad news though. The metastatic support group is run by Brianne Carter. Zoom allows people to remain together even in the final stages of their lives. Something that wasn’t possible before.
“The pandemic created a lot of barriers but created an avenue for these people that wasn’t there before,” Carter said.