Stay home for cancer.
It’s a simple message and cancer patients need those around them to hear it.
A new social media campaign #stayhomeforcancer is urging others to consider the impact coronavirus is having on patients and those in remission.
Jessica Olson from Sydney is no stranger to cancer. She’s met with it five times, and she’s only 24-years-old.
At 15-years-old she was thrown into a world of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy to tackle stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma in her neck and chest. Ever since, various aggressive cancers have tried to take her on. She’s bravely defeated them using alternative treatments, despite doctors insisting there was nothing more they could do.
“I have a neck full of scars and a lifetime of traumatic memories, but I’m still here and I am very lucky to be able to say that,” Miss Olson said.
Currently, Miss Olson is battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer called mucoepidermoid carcinoma. It’s incurable. To give her a fighting chance against it she is working to strengthen her immune system.
Due to recent panic buying, she is now unable to access the regular supplements she needs. Going to scans to check the size of her tumour and the cancer’s progression is also an obstacle. A journey to the hospital means the possibility of coming into contact with the infection.
“All the fear around coronavirus and extra emphasis on death has escalated this for me and I’ve been unable to sleep or relax at all,” Miss Olson said.
Miss Olson is worried the message isn’t getting through, meaning those already facing a tough battle could now have more of a war to fight.
“For the last nine years I’ve been fearful of cancer killing me and to think a virus could sweep through and knock me out after I’ve tried so hard to get well,” Miss Olson said.
In recent weeks she’s witnessed peers her age attend parties and take to the shores of Bondi, disregarding government social distancing rules.
“They’re simply suggesting that they simply don’t care whether I and many other patients make it or not,” Miss Olson said.
She hopes this social media campaign may make others more aware of what going out could mean for those who are immunocompromised.
“I may not be here in a month’s time, because you still wanted to go to your party – is that really worth my life?” Miss Olson said.
Ashley Doyle, 36, from Canada’s British Columbia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. Ever since she’s experienced varying health issues as a result of her diagnosis.
“Due to being immunocompromised and having other health issues as a result of my diagnosis, COVID-19 would quite likely take my life,” Miss Doyle said.
Ashley’s husband was concerned about what the pandemic could mean for his wife. That’s what led him to share his message.
With a piece of cardboard, a marker and camera, Mike Boulton, 40, took to social media with his plea so that “people don’t have to die alone without family”.
“Like COVID-19, cancer doesn’t discriminate,” he wrote.
While the warnings to stay away from the elderly were frequent from governments around the world, he felt not enough was being said about other groups at risk.
“I wanted to support my wife and other people in the cancer communities who are fearing their lives even more so due to COVID-19,” Mr Boulton said.
He felt the message from the perspective of a loving husband could resonate with a wider audience online.
“It’s usually the women who have to advocate for themselves with cancer, so I wanted to step in and contribute in a meaningful way that is supportive,” Mr Boulton said.
While posting their message, images of others ignoring social distancing advice were also being shared. It’s a sight that has put them on edge. They’ve not left the house in two weeks to minimise the risk of coming into contact with coronavirus.
“People might not even realise how far their actions can impact the world around them. COVID-19 is temporary, death is not,” Miss Doyle said.
“COVID-19 won’t last forever so staying home really isn’t that big of an ask when so many people going through cancer are already fighting for their lives to begin with,” Mr Boulton said.
For Australia, Miss Olson wants better. Online she is using her platforms to urge and educate others to be considerate. She wants people to know cancer isn’t as visible as it may seem.
She isn’t undergoing chemotherapy at the moment, making her diagnosis invisible to those who don’t know her. She has all her hair and to the untrained eye, she looks healthy. The average person walking past her on the street wouldn’t notice she is terminally ill.
“There are many like me living with cancer or disability or low immunity who look like everyday people. Regardless keep your 1.5 metre distance, don’t go out if you’re unwell and please don’t gather in groups. It’s just not worth it,” Miss Olson said.