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Sask. cancer patient has treatment schedule disrupted because of pandemic

·2 min read
Tim Clarke, a cancer patient in Saskatoon, says treatment disruptions bring uncertaintly. (submitted by Tim Clarke  - image credit)
Tim Clarke, a cancer patient in Saskatoon, says treatment disruptions bring uncertaintly. (submitted by Tim Clarke - image credit)

A Saskatoon man has had his cancer treatment schedule disrupted because of the strain the rising number of COVID-19 cases is placing on the province's health-care system.

"I rely on the health-care system in a way that very few others can relate to, so these disruptions are personal to me," said Tim Clarke.

Clarke has a rare form of lymphoma called mycosis fungoides — a disease where white blood cells become cancerous and affect the person's skin. It can lead to rashes and tumours.

Clarke usually receives photopheresis, a blood filtering treatment for the condition, every two weeks at the Royal University Hospital.

Because of nurses being reallocated within the hospital due to the pandemic, the department that offers the treatment has gone down to only one operating one day per week.

Clarke's next three appointments have been rescheduled.

While he's still getting treated, there's a level of uncertainty. He said there's no real capacity for the hospital to make up a missed appointment if that happens for any reason.

Clarke said there are two machines used for the treatment and one of them breaks down often enough that it doesn't come as a surprise to find out it's not working.

He said the whole experience has left him feeling deeply uncertain.

"Waiting for action from our province had left me feeling quite numb, but this has re-personalized the issue, and brought it right back into my face," he said.

Clarke said the time for the province to act on the number of COVID-19 cases by reinstating restrictions was earlier in the summer.

Saskatchewan has been reporting new COVID-19 cases in record-breaking numbers. The province has halted its organ donation program. The Saskatchewan Health Authority is also slowing down and pausing its non-critical and elective services to focus on treating COVID-19 cases and help health-care workers cope with stress.

Serious health consequences

Clarke said he has a resistant form of his disease, meaning it is difficult to control and develops more rapidly.

He said if his treatment keeps getting disrupted for more than a month he would face serious consequences, such as tumours appearing on his skin and — eventually — a lengthy, unpleasant death.

Clarke copes with that possibility by not engaging with types of thoughts and taking everything day by day.

He said the current disruption is supposed to last for the next six weeks, but he doesn't know for sure if it will be the last one.

"The uncertainty is appalling," he said.

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