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WHAT if there was one ventilator left and two patients that needed it? Who should get it?
Ultimately, it is a doctor’s call; they are the ones qualified to weigh up the medical risks and benefits.
I was on the BBC yesterday to debate the question: ‘Is lockdown punishing too many for the greater good?’Credit: BBC ONE
During a heated debate, former supreme judge Lord Sumption told me: “I didn’t say your life was not valuable, I said it was less valuable”Credit: BBC ONE
But, if I was lying in ICU alongside another 39-year-old mum with no underlying health problems, then I would expect her to get it.
On paper, as a stage 4 cancer patient who is living on borrowed time, I should be lower on the medical priority list in that scenario.
I know it, and I understand why.
It might feel gut-wrenchingly unfair and in an ideal world it wouldn’t even be an issue.
But we don’t live in an ideal world.
All lives are valuable
While Lord Sumption and I have emailed and agreed to disagree, but the point I am passionate about making is that all lives are valuable, regardless of your age, what you do, your background and your medical historyCredit: bowelbabe/Instagram
Yesterday, during a heated debate on the BBC about whether lockdown is punishing too many people, former supreme judge Lord Sumption told me: “I didn’t say your life was not valuable, I said it was less valuable.”
His argument was that old and vulnerable people could assess their own risk and isolate, if they want to, while the rest of the population is freed from lockdown to live their lives.
He believes in civil liberty and personal choice.
But this isn’t about a debate between Lord Sumption and I.
We have since exchanged amicable emails and while we agree to disagree on certain aspects, including the use of the word ‘value’, I believe we agree on two key points.
The first is that cancer services should not be compromised, and secondly, that life is indeed precious.
In the heat of the moment yesterday, I felt a spark of anger deep inside me, and so I challenged him asking who he is to put a value on life?
Then in the aftermath, I was inundated with a barrage of requests from people asking me how I felt as a cancer “sufferer”.
From there, the small spark of anger became a deeper rage.
I am a cancer patient, I’m NOT a ‘sufferer’
I might have stage 4 incurable cancer, but that doesn’t mean I am a “victim” or cancer “sufferer” – I live with cancer, there’s a big differenceCredit: bowelbabe/Instagram
The use of the word “victim” or “sufferer” is a big part of the problem. It plays into the idea that cancer patients are weaker than the rest of society.
I am not a “sufferer”, I live with incurable cancer – there’s a big difference.
I do my utmost to live my life and make the most of everyday, bizarrely I probably feel more alive now than at times before my cancer diagnosis.
So painting me as a victim only serves to segregate me. I am not a victim, I am just a normal person, walking on a slightly different path.
Cancer or no cancer, I am not the weak and feeble patient I’m portrayed to be.
And that’s why I was taken aback at the idea my life might not be as valuable.
Every life is sacred, and every life is worth fighting for.
If my team of doctors had seen my initial diagnosis and given up – I wouldn’t still be alive today.
They have fought for me to get the chance to try new drugs – drugs that didn’t exist for my cancer when I was first diagnosed. And I have spent four years fighting to get here.
So no matter who you are, how old you are or the story your medical history tells, all lives are valuable.
We are all somebody’s daughter, wife, mum, sister, niece and friend – cancer or no cancer.
For the last four years I have been fighting to live, the doctors and nurses looking after me have fought every step of the way for me. Credit: bowelbabe/Instagram
We are so lucky to have our NHS, a national health service that is free at the point of use to all of us.
That doesn’t mean it can save every life, everyday doctors and nurses have to face difficult situations. I am in awe of them and have the utmost respect for them all.
The reality is medical science doesn’t have all the answers, and it means we can’t defy fate all the time.
What we can do, though, is make sure that the NHS has everything it needs to do all it can to save as many lives as possible.
Of course a large part of that is funding – if I was PM I’d be giving all healthcare workers a pay rise, as well as more money to run the service.
NHS is at breaking point
The NHS is at breaking point, staff are off sick, wards are full and the knock-on effect means cancer treatment is being delayed again, like it was during the first lockdown. Lives will be lost if it carries on too longCredit: Deborah James
Right now, in the height of the Covid storm, hospitals across the country are at breaking point.
Staff are off sick, wards are full and as a result the NHS is facing an even tougher time.
In the first lockdown, all elective care was paused while the health service braced itself for a new enemy.
This time around, everyone is doing all they can to avoid that happening again.
Peter Johnson, clinical director for cancer services for the NHS, reminded us just yesterday that the NHS is open for business.
He tweeted: “To be clear, @NHSEngland, will do everything it can to ensure safe and effective cancer treatment for all that need it. Always.”
But it is starting to happen again.
I’m hearing more and more cases of patients having their care put on hold. Screening appointments are being missed, treatment delayed, operating lists are being cancelled and theatres are being transformed into overflow ICU wards.
Collateral damage… the ‘forgotten C’
Where once cancer was dubbed the ‘Big C’, it feels like the ‘Forgotten C’ right now – that has to changeCredit: bowelbabe/Instagram
The knock-on effect for cancer patients – and many others – is scary, and we know from the first lockdown it will cost lives.
With cancer, early diagnosis really does save lives. Catch the disease early enough and in lots of cases it can be treated.
But wait and catch it after it’s already spread and the delay can prove deadly.
I have read many messages recently from strangers telling me they are now facing a late-stage cancer that wasn’t detected early enough, because of delays due to Covid.
All of this only serves to make cancer patients, and those treating cancer patients, feel like actually what Lord Sumption said might be true, maybe our lives aren’t as valuable.
Since Covid arrived on our shores a year ago, cancer has taken a backseat.
Where once cancer was the ‘Big C’, now it feels more like the ‘Forgotten C’.
Matt Hancock and Boris and all those in Government need to do more to make sure cancer care is not forgotten any longer.
The roll out of the vaccine proves what we can do, given half the chance.
Without drastic action, more lives will be lost to cancer – lives that could have been saved if treatment hadn’t been stopped.
Lockdown is our way to help the NHS
Lockdown is tough and believe me, I want out of it and fast. But I think it’s the only way we can really take the pressure off the NHS, to ensure it is still there when the Covid dust settles… for all of us, whatever our needCredit: bowelbabe/Instagram
And that is why I think lockdown is the only choice we have right now.
I hate it, I am finding it really hard. I wake up at 3am in fits of panic at the thought that this is time I won’t get back.
When you don’t have the luxury of much time guaranteed, a day can feel like a week, a week and month and a month a year.
So I want out of all of this as fast as the next person, and that’s why I feel passionate about protecting the NHS – to ensure it’s stronger than ever moving forward.
Yes, we don’t have a magic money tree or a wand to wave that will see a new army of nurses hit the frontline running.
We can also all do little things that add up to have a big impact.
We can stay at home as much as possible. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get out to exercise regularly and if you live alone, make the most of your bubble.
Reducing contact can stop the virus in its tracks, we’ve heard it from expert after expert.
If we can stop the mutant strain spreading, we can give the NHS the breathing space it needs to vaccinate us all.
We’ve come so far and the end is in sight
The vaccine roll out is proof of what can be done. We’ve come so far in the last year, and all made so many sacrifices, lockdown isn’t easy not by any stretch, but we’re so nearly thereCredit: bowelbabe/Instagram
That’s our way back to some sort of normal life, and it is within reach, finally!
Let’s try not undo the huge sacrifices we have all made to get this far, by giving up at the final hurdle.
I know it’s not easy, I’m not pretending it is. I’m running on no sleep as my frustration and anxiety creeps just like yours.
But, if we all just live our lives and make our own risk assessments – even ‘Tier 3 style normal’ – the NHS won’t cope.
If the unthinkable happens and the NHS is overwhelmed then what happens?
What happens to us cancer patients, what happens if your dad has a heart attack, your mum suffers a stroke? What happens if your child has an accident and needs to be rushed to A&E.
If the NHS is overwhelmed, then care really might end up being rationed.
And that affects all of us, regardless of our age, our background, and our medical history.
So, we all have a choice, and we all have our own personal situation to weigh up.
It’s not easy to do the right thing.
I for one, don’t want to make their lives, any harder.
But the heroes working in our NHS have hard enough decisions to make each day.