TAMPA, Fla. - Melissa Work heard the word "negative" and had almost never been so happy. She has been battling cancer of the bone marrow for 10 years when she started wheezing a few days ago. Doctors declared her a presumptive positive for COVID-19, which would be bad enough for anyone, but for a cancer patient, it's almost hard to imagine.
"A year-and-a-half old, that is how strong my immune system is right now," Work explained via video chat just hours after being discharged from Moffitt Cancer Center. "Could COVID kill [cancer patients]? Absolutely, it is very dangerous. It would be very hard to fight."
Work got tested right away and her results were expedited. She was admitted overnight until results showed she was negative, that her wheezing was caused by pneumonia and not COVID-19.
Still, she feels like her worlds have collided. The community is now taking the same measures she has been taking for 10 years: handwashing, social distance, and all the rest.
"The freaking out, [being] scared to go anywhere, that is literally how cancer patients and transplant patients have to live," she explained.
Moffitt Cancer Center was already on high alert after one of its patients tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Doctors have not been forced to change Work's treatment plan, but she says they have locked down visitor access, kept patients isolated, and use video chats.
Here's her advice for all of us: "You have to have that understanding and that grace because it is for our protection, and for our nurses," said Work. "If our nurses and physicians aren't protected, then we aren't going to get our care."
After 10 years of high-intensity treatment, she's begging everyone to respect the battle health care workers and high-risk patients are going through.
"Stay home if you can help it," she said. "Please, please, please. The time will pass."
Moffitt Cancer Center posted a frequently asked questions page as it relates to Coronavirus and cancer patients which is available at https://moffitt.org/patient-family/protecting-against-coronavirus-disease-19/.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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