On Cancer Survivors Day (6 June) we spotlight Ann Robinson. Ann works part time in the education sector. In a voluntary capacity she sits on the North Central London Cancer Alliance Board, and is a member of the Patient and Carer Network and the Personalised Cancer Care Delivery Group. At University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) where she has been treated, she is a member of the patient board.
In 2020 Ann had to face much more than the COVID-19 pandemic. Five years earlier she had a breast cancer diagnosis and a mastectomy and reconstruction of one breast followed. Last year she felt a large lump on the other breast. Her consultant at UCLH confirmed a fast-growing cancer and she was advised to have a second mastectomy immediately. Ann’s surgery took place on 23 March, the first day of lockdown. This was done at the Wellington Hospital, a private hospital, where breast surgery for north London had already been relocated due to the pandemic.
Chemotherapy was necessary as well as the surgery and Ann attended eight sessions at the University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre.
“Each time I had to go to the Macmillan Cancer Centre on my own, in a taxi with a plastic shield between me and the driver.”
“At the Centre I was treated so well during these sessions. It’s impossible for nurses to maintain social distance when preparing patients for chemo and they were putting their own lives on the line during the pandemic. I was very aware of that. The NHS was batting for me even in the dreadful COVID-19 situation.”
After the chemotherapy Ann’s hospital treatment, however, was not yet over. A full body scan which was done when the breast lump was investigated had shown signs of a polyp on her bowel. Mid way through the chemotherapy she had a colonoscopy which confirmed the polyp was malignant. At the start of the second lockdown in December she had a bowel resection. Ann went home from hospital on Christmas Eve.
“I’m widowed and I live alone. I couldn’t go out owing to lockdown and my lowered immunity. I did feel very isolated. Phone calls from friends aren’t the same as real contact.”
“But I still I feel I received more treatment than I ever would have expected during this difficult time and for that I am very grateful. When my chemo ended in September I celebrated by leaping into the Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond!”