The COVID -19 Edition – From Mark Levine

In February when planning for the April eNewsletter, I was going to comment on the potential for vitamins and nutritional supplements to impact on chemotherapy results.

Fast forward eight weeks. How our lives have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. My editors and I feel that writing about something “medical” does not seem appropriate. To be honest, I am at a loss for what to write about. 

All of our lives have been disrupted. I can no longer do my regular daily exercise of either skating or swimming. So, I go for walks, maintaining the two-metre distance from others. The university has closed down and I and my research team are working from home. I have become used to holding meetings virtually through the Internet with ZOOM.

Schools are closed and my grandchildren are continuing their learning through on-line learning. I visit with them through the barrier of a glass door.

Once and a while, I go to Fortinos for provisions. One recent morning, I took advantage of the 7-8 am time for seniors. At night, I lie on the couch hooked to Netflix. I figure that this routine sounds familiar to many of you. 

I am hungry for news about the mounting toll of COVID-19 in Canada and further afield. I stay glued to the radio and the news apps on my iPhone. I am aghast at the catastrophe that is occurring in Italy. The epi-centre of COVID-19 is in Bergamo, about one hour from Milan. It is a beautiful medieval city. I have been there many times. More than two decades ago, one of their hospitals participated in a breast cancer clinical trial I led. I wonder how the physicians I know there are doing? 

Our government leaders at both the federal and provincial levels have stepped up to provide leadership in this crisis. This is in contrast to what is going on south of the border. 
I would be remiss not to make special mention of the staff of the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, and other hospitals in our region, who are doing their best to continue to provide treatment and care. 

Some consider the current COVID-19 pandemic “apocalyptic.” It is difficult to live with so much uncertainty. There are so many unanswered questions. How long will the lockdown last in Canada? Will there be many people who die? Will our hospitals and ICUs be swamped? 
I apologize if what I say next may be construed as being patronizing; that is not my intention. I just want to put things in perspective. Keep in mind that many of you went through a similar experience when you were diagnosed with breast cancer. How did you feel when you received the diagnosis of breast cancer? You were likely devastated and felt like you had been punched in the solar plexus (gut).

Your life was turned upside-down. You were uncertain about the future. You wondered whether you would die from breast cancer. When you saw a surgeon and then an oncologist and a treatment plan was made, you felt a little better and less anxious. Throughout the treatment period you had amazing support from family and friends. At the end of the treatment period, although physically drained, you had developed a mental toughness and resilience. This can be your inner reserve for the current crisis. 

I cannot predict what will happen. Am I concerned? Of course I am. At 68, I am in a so-called high-risk group and my two children are physicians on the front lines. Stay inside. When you go out, be mindful of social distancing (2 metres). To maintain your spirits and not go wonky, reach out remotely to friends and family regularly.

Stay safe.