COVID-19 Q&A With Brian Agler, Stage IV Survivor and Senior Director at West Wing Writers
What’s Your Colorectal Cancer Story?
I was diagnosed with Stage IIIc colon cancer in the summer of 2017, just over a month before my wedding. I ended up having surgery, followed by 12 rounds of chemo. In February of 2018, I was NED.
In June of 2019, the cancer returned–this time, to my abdominal cavity. I had a tumor debulking surgery which was only able to remove some of the cancer. I’ve been on various forms of treatment ever since.
Lately, I’ve had some issues with my stomach and digestion–my appetite isn’t what it used to be, and I get some days of very bad nausea and vomiting–but my day-to-day life is mostly unchanged.
Of course, there are the bouts of anxiety that come from not quite knowing what the future (let alone, next scan) will hold. But, I’m taking it one day at a time. My wife, my family, my friends, and my work have been unbelievably supportive. I can honestly say that I’m able to get through it all (with high spirits!) because of them.
What Advice Do You Have for Patients to Get the Most Out of Telemedicine Visits with Their Doctors?
Come to the meeting with questions ready. The flow of the conversation just won’t feel as natural as if you were in person, so you want to make sure that nothing falls by the wayside, and that you get as much out of each “visit” as possible.
What Precautions Are You Taking When Going in for Treatment or Doctor’s Appointments?
I wear gloves and a mask from the moment I leave the house. At the outpatient center, I try to keep them on at all times (basically only removing my mask for when they take my temperature). In general, I try to reduce contact with things or people as much as possible, just to stay safe. When I get home, I quickly throw my clothes in the wash and take a shower. It’s a lot, but it’s important to me that I keep my treatment schedule normal, so whatever I have to do, it’s worth it
What Types of Precautions Have Your Loved Ones Taken During the Duration of the Pandemic Thus Far?
It’s just my wife and me at the apartment. We sanitize everything that comes in…food, packages, you name it. We have our groceries delivered and we have friends pick up prescriptions for us. Save for visits to the doctor and a walk to get some fresh air, we don’t really leave the apartment. Again, it’s a lot, but she’s pregnant and I’m immunocompromised–so we’ll do what we have to do in order to stay safe.
That’s So Exciting, Congratulations! Speaking of Exciting Things, What’s the First Thing You Plan to Do When the Shelter-in-Place Initiatives are Lifted?
Go to a restaurant. Any restaurant.
What Have You Been Doing to Ease Anxiety and Find Peace in These Challenging Times?
I’ve actually been playing a lot of Zoom trivia with friends and family. I love trivia nights, so having something to look forward to keeps me sane. But, on a more philosophical level, I try to remember that all of this is temporary. We’re not going to live like this forever. Even if we don’t know the end date, there will be an end date, and that’s comforting.
What Encouragement Do You Have for Fellow CRC Survivors and Caregivers During the Pandemic?
Take care of yourself. Whatever that means to you–curling up under a blanket, eating a bunch of ice cream, or binging on Netflix–do it. Between cancer, and now this pandemic, you have permission to be selfish. However, you can find comfort and joy, it’s on the table. If you do that, I promise you, you’ll be able to get through this.
Thank you so much, Brian! We’re wishing you and your growing family all the best.
For more information on colorectal cancer and COVID-19, check out the resources below.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Colorectal Cancer Clinical Trials Apr 8
- Reuters Features Fight CRC Findings on the Effects of COVID-19 on CRC Patients May 27
- Colorectal Cancer and Coronavirus (COVID-19) Apr 6
- Coronavirus and Cancer Screening and Treatment: Expert Insight for Patients Apr 20
- Congressional Action on Coronavirus (COVID-19): What You Need to Know Apr 27