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Mel's story

My healthcare team and me – Managing through coronavirus

This story was written when people with blood cancer were shielding across the UK. For up-to-date information on current restrictions and guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, see our information on staying safe and government guidance.

No one needs any added anxiety in the run-up to their three-monthly check-up, but thanks to coronavirus, that’s what I had.

Before the outbreak, I usually felt anxious ahead of my appointments, worrying about how my bloods would be, are the drugs still working, or is my CLL kicking in again? All of which are enough to send me into a flat spin on a good day. But now, I had the added anxiety of venturing out and going into a hospital environment during the coronavirus pandemic.

When I was first diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), I had a bad time mentally with a degree of depression. For a while, I struggled on without seeking help, but eventually I worked through it by changing my outlook to focussing on what I could control. I started taking positive steps like increasing my fitness, raising funds to find a cure, and reading up on my condition and treatment. I developed my own strategy for dealing with anxiety.

My approach is to control what I can, and for everything I can’t control, trust the medical team to do the same. My recent experience reinforces this for me.

As my check-up was approaching, I received a phone call from my nurse, to tell me about some adjustments to my check-up.

My usual routine is to have a blood test at the hospital, and then a few days later, go in for my results and appointment. If I’m able to keep taking the same drugs, I collect my prescription from the hospital pharmacy and go home.

Coronavirus restrictions meant that this simple routine needed some adapting! In order to keep me as isolated as possible, my treatment team said they would make some changes for me:

  • They would open the clinical trials treatment area just for me to have my bloods taken in isolation.
  • They would change my results appointment to be over the phone.
  • I would come back to collect my drugs, but a nurse would drop them through my car window outside.

My care team, as usual, came up trumps. They have adapted my routine so it can continue.

These new arrangements were explained to me a week before my appointment, so I had the opportunity to ask questions. They never mind answering simple or what you may feel are ‘daft’ questions. It helps relieve my anxiety.

I’ve always had good communication with my care team. I think this is really key in allaying fears.

The day of my blood test arrived (it was actually my 60th birthday – what a present!) and the new plan was put into action. My care team made sure I was as isolated as possible. The closest physical contact was when my blood samples were taken, but even then, the person taking the samples wore protective gear to ensure we were protected from each other.

A few days later during my telephone consultation, I was told my bloods were in the normal range so I could carry on with the drugs. The next day, as arranged, I collected my prescription in the hospital car park.

Despite my increased anxiety about attending hospital appointments during the coronavirus pandemic, I think it went as well as it could have.

From this experience, I’ve learnt how important it is to trust your care team. They’re here to support you throughout your treatment, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, there were even a few positives – no hospital car parking fees, two hospital visits rather than three, and no waiting around!

The frontline NHS staff are currently getting a lot of praise, but all the clinicians performing regular treatments are also going the extra mile to protect their patients. A huge amount of praise for their efforts and consideration is also due.

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