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How the coronavirus pandemic is impacting those with cancer

Click to play video 'Living with cancer through the COVID-19 pandemic' Living with cancer through the COVID-19 pandemic
For many of those living with cancer, avoiding hospitals and other high-risk areas during the novel coronavirus pandemic isn’t an option. Nalie Agustin joins Global’s Laura Casella.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has upended Canadians’ lives in recent weeks, and it has hit those who already relied on the health-care system especially hard.

Nalie Agustin, a Stage 4 terminal breast cancer patient who calls herself a “cancer thriver,” told Global News Morning that the challenges the pandemic presents can be especially daunting for people living with cancer.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Pre-existing staff shortages exacerbating situation in Quebec long-term care homes

“First, there was one beast called cancer, and now, there’s two beasts that we have to slay,” she told Global’s Laura Casella. “So it’s extra anxiety, fear and uncertainty.”

Much of Agustin’s treatment is continuing as normal, but there are already some changes due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

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“I am able to get my injections at the CLSC (centre local de services communautaires), but when it comes to doctor’s appointments, it’s going to be done over the phone [from now on],” she said.

Agustin said that when she has outpatient appointments, like routine scans, that require her to go to a hospital, she usually goes with her boyfriend. Now, she says, “I have to go by myself, which just makes me think about everyone undergoing chemotherapy or other harsher treatments.”

READ MORE: Quebec coroner to investigate 31 deaths at seniors’ home in Montreal

Many more cancer patients are also now learning that their surgeries or treatments have been cancelled with no new date set as Quebec’s health-care system puts off hospital visits deemed non-essential by the province.

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While technically non-essential, many of those services can be life-saving for cancer patients.

“A lot of people, a lot of cancer patients, now feel like they don’t know what to do,” Agustin said.

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Agustin said the easiest way for those who do not have cancer to help in these unprecedented times is to respect social-distancing rules and stay inside, adding that seeing people disobey those rules “drives me crazy.”

“We’re part of the people who are at risk, and not many people know that,” she said. “For me to feel comfortable stepping out of my house, I need to know that those who don’t need to be outside stay inside.”