The COVID-19 pandemic has left those touched by CRC feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, and unable to stop worrying several days a week. Additionally, many patients have experienced holds in treatments, delays in screening, and other healthcare disruptions. With many states beginning to reduce restrictions and “reopen,” there are still many unknowns.
On June 25, 2020, The Colon Club and Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) partnered to host a virtual town hall meeting, Surviving Colorectal Cancer Through COVID-19. During this interactive session, those touched by colorectal cancer (CRC) had the opportunity to ask leading experts about the many ways in which the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect their lives, their treatment, and their cancer survivorship, and what we can expect to see in the coming months.
Uniting as a community to discuss challenges and silver linings of this difficult time was an excellent way to get direct information during a very unknown and unprecedented time.
Meet the Panelists
Joanna Morales, Esq
Joanna is a cancer rights attorney, author, speaker, and CEO of Triage Cancer, a national nonprofit organization connecting people to cancer survivorship information and resources through a national speakers bureau, educational events, and online tools.
Cathy Eng, MD, FACP, FASCO
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
- David H. Johnson Chair in Surgical and Medical Oncology
- Co-Leader, Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program
- Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Oncology)
- Co-Director, GI Oncology
- Vice-Chair, SWOG GI Committee
- Director, VICC Young Adult Cancers Initiative
Candace Henley, Stage III CRC Survivor
Chair of the Illinois CRC roundtable, founder of the Blue Hat Foundation, health disparities activist, community engagement advocate, and national speaker
Joel Milam, PhD
Keck School of Medicine of USC
- Associate Professor of Research Preventive Medicine
- Head of Health Behavior Research Postdoctoral Program
- Program Leader for Cancer Control
Ryan Fields, MD
Siteman Cancer Center
Professor of Surgery, Chief of the Section of Surgical Oncology, Division of General Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine
Mike Mancini, Stage IV CRC Survivor
Diagnosed at age 42 in June 2017, Mike is currently undergoing another 12 rounds of chemotherapy due to his second recurrence since diagnosis. He’s from Wolcott, CT, and he continues to work full time, while pursuing his MBA at night, and he vigilantly pursues a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. Mike is also a Fight CRC Ambassador and a Relentless Champion of Hope!
WATCH THE TOWN HALL
ANSWERS FROM THE EXPERTS
Attendees had so many questions! The conversation was exciting, and people were incredibly engaged.
If you’re looking for more information about CRC and the coronavirus, be sure to visit the Fight CRC COVID-19 resource page and check out the resources listed at the end of this blog.
Q. If a cancer patient goes to the emergency room, shouldn’t they be placed away from the general public?
A. In general, I’d avoid the ER unless you had a true emergency. Often, if you have mild COVID symptoms, you’ll be asked to quarantine, have an outpatient test, and only go to a hospital if you have worsening or severe symptoms. –Dr. Fields
Q. Is there an accommodation for your caregiver? For example, my husband is a teacher and there is talk that if they go back to school in fall, they will have to take the temperature of students as they arrive. He obviously will already be facing a lot of students every day, but his concern is being face-to-face with someone who possibly has a fever, then bringing home to me. Can he have an accommodation that would exempt him from that particular duty?
A. Unfortunately, caregivers are not entitled to accommodations under the ADA, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for accommodation-like adjustments. The Triage Cancer website also has an animated video on the rights of caregivers generally in the workplace. Caregivers might be eligible for paid FMLA leave under the new law, if there is also a minor child at home whose school or place of childcare is currently closed. We lay this out in this blog. I would also point you to www.cancerfinances.org for resources on finances, financial help, caregiving support, new COVID-related resources, and much more. Hope this helps! -Joanna
Q. I am a stage IIIc rectal cancer survivor diagnosed in July 2017 and declared NED (no evidence of disease) in August 2018. So, since I’ve been NED for a year and a half now, am I still considered at high risk due to all the chemotherapy (capecitabine plus oxaliplatin) and surgeries (LARS and Reversal)? What makes me at risk…compromised immune system?
A. For people who have questions about going back to work and are concerned about COVID, here is a Triage Cancer blog that covers the options for patients and caregivers: https://triagecancer.org/states-reopening-employees-returning-work-individuals-coping-cancer-caregivers-know. -Joanna