Coping with cancer, chemo and Covid

Christine Smith, Saint Francis Hospice staff nurse

Christine Smith had to take a break from nursing to have treatment for cancer but also found time to sew cotton face masks for colleagues - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

Looking back over 2020, we will all have our own memories and thoughts about the year. No one could tell us how serious this coronavirus was going to be, but we all had to prepare for it in one way or another.

We all had to conform to the strict rules and government guidelines.

Thursday evenings at 8pm, we would clap for the NHS, which brought a sense of friendship and closeness to our communities. This virus was starting to affect everyone, it was a very scary and unpredictable time.

2020 will always have a big red circle around it. I was having to deal with regular hospital appointments.

In September 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I had to take leave from my job as staff nurse on the ward where I had worked for 10 years.

Where was this physical or emotional roller coaster going to take me?

I felt overwhelmed and concerned about my prognosis and health, and for a while my cancer took my mind off the pandemic crisis.

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My anxiety levels increased, knowing that I had to go to Queen’s Hospital for my chemotherapy treatments. My fears were allayed, as staff wore face masks, and washed their hands. It was compulsory for all patients to wear a face mask, and sanitize our hands before entering the building, and again as we left the oncology department.

This reassured me and made me feel more confident, knowing that the hospital was clean, and staff were taking care to make us feel safe.

My colleagues have been fantastic. I received beautiful cards and flowers to help me get through those “bad days.” And regular text and WhatsApp messages. We would sometimes find ourselves having long and uplifting phone calls.

The Covid-19 situation was an unknown territory. My colleagues had increased pressures and stress on their daily workload, but they have carried on regardless.

And I could now give my colleagues the support and encouragement they needed.

I started sewing cotton face masks, I gave 80 to the fundraising team at Saint Francis Hospice and 50 to my colleagues. In total I made over 350.

A thank you to everyone who donated - the total amount raised was £500.

Your kindness and generosity has been great.

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