Protecting cancer patients during the pandemic

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 3:07 PM EDT
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Many doctors' offices across the country have shut down during the coronavirus outbreak, but treatment for cancer patients has not stopped, despite the risk.

The American Cancer Society estimates almost 5,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed every day in the U.S. this year, and cancer cases don't slow down because of a pandemic. Initial reports suggest the coronavirus can be especially deadly for cancer patients.

Christine Dare, 54, makes a nearly weekly visit to the Lindenberg Cancer Center in Marlton, New Jersey, for treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma and an immune system disorder. But these days, there's another level of anxiety.

Dare says she's very concerned she could contract the coronavirus.

"I don't want to be around other people because I really don't want to catch it because I know, most likely, I'll end up in the hospital and that's a very scary thought in my book," she said.

Dare wears an N95 mask when she goes out.

At the cancer center, Dr. Noah Lindenberg and all other staff wear full personal protective equipment. Other precautions include limiting visitors, sanitizing rooms after each patient and minimizing in-person appointments.

"For many of these patients, they really need to get their treatments, and that's been my commitment," Lindenberg said.

Dare's concerns extend to her home. She now sleeps in the bedroom she used to share with her husband, Jim, and he sleeps on the couch. Jim is a bus foreman, an essential worker who helps people get to their jobs, bringing the threat of the virus into their house.

"We can't touch, we can't hug, we can't sleep in the same bed. You know, in the kitchen I do my thing, he does his thing. And, you know, we have to be a lot more careful," Dare said.

Despite the challenges, Dare says she feels supported.

"The biggest things are my family and my faith," she said.

Last week, Dare got the news from her doctor she had been hoping for: She's in remission.