GIST Patient & GIST Mentor, North Carolina, USA
Every GIST patient has had to make difficult decisions during this pandemic. To keep appointments, to have that scan, to work in the office – daily choices about how to stay safe and how to maintain emotional balance in very uncertain times. Eric Lindberg, diagnosed with GIST in 2017, works as an emergency room nurse and has been on the frontlines throughout this pandemic. Eric shared what it was like to work the ER during the worst of the pandemic.
The hospital, located in a retirement community area in Hendersonville, admitted quite a few COVID patients in the early days of the crisis but saw a volume drop since cases that would normally come to the ER stopped. Fear kept people out of the hospital. “We even have people that have stayed at home after having a heart attack and some did very poorly because they didn’t come in. They’d just call their doctor the next morning,” Eric noted.
As a GIST patient, Eric had his tumors successfully resected and since he has a high risk of recurrence, lifelong adjuvant treatment with imatinib is recommended. Eric wasn’t given an option to not work during the crisis but says that his hospital hasn’t had an issue getting proper protective equipment. “It’s not been a huge concern for me. I use the gear and I work. My coworkers do their best to avoid sending me obvious virus patients, but screening people can be hard. At the beginning, the turnaround for testing was 48 hours. The rapid test will change the whole ballgame. We’ve been fortunate that no one yet on our emergency room staff has contracted the virus.
”Currently the hospital is opening up for selected, elective surgeries again such as postponed cancer surgeries and knee replacements and the like. Eric noted that if there’s a quality of life issue, you’re probably eager to get these surgeries done and the hospital has now put these operations at the top of the priority list. Every patient admitted for surgery is tested for COVID-19.
His perspective on the virus and how it will affect him is pragmatic. “It’s inevitable that some of us [GIST patients] will get the virus. And this helps to flatten the curve. We’re going to see people trickle in for a few months. I’m not sure it’ll ever go away completely.” Being in the healthcare field, Eric is required to have an annual flu shot which he feels is ineffective since he has gotten influenza causing him to feel as if he’s naturally susceptible to certain viruses. “Hopefully one of the vaccines like remdesivir will be approved,” said Eric.
People will probably have a lot of anxiety about going out in public for some time. “If you have GIST and other comorbidities, like congestive heart failure and diabetes, you have to take that into consideration.
”Eric says that he and his family are staying positive during these trying times by keeping busy outdoors. “I’ve still been camping. I don’t do campgrounds. I like to hike out and I’m fortunate because where I live, I’m surrounded by forest. A lot of parks are closed now, but it’s still not that hard to get outside and find places to go hike and fish. Been doing that a lot.
”Equally pragmatic is his view on GIST patient cancer care. He suggests that the best course of action would be to put off your imaging and labs for the time being if you can and do what you can virtually and by phone. “You have to live your life. Do what you can. Practice your social distancing and stay healthy. Try not to put off your cancer care. In today’s information age and with electronic medical records, it’s not too difficult to see a specialist virtually or by phone for surveillance,” shared Eric, when asked about his advice for GIST patients concerning their cancer care.
Eric shared that he’s glad the LRG is there for him too, for this crisis, and throughout his GIST journey. “I may not need help right now. I feel pretty good most days just knowing you’re [the LRG] there and you’ve helped me a lot and given me the opportunity to help other GIST patients. I feel for GIST patients especially if they’ve been diagnosed in the last three months. They can definitely use extra support.” Eric is a GIST Mentor and is active on GIST Chat, both are support services are available to LRG members.
If you would like more information about becoming an LRG member & joining our Patient Registry, you can find more information here. If you are interested in connecting with a GIST Mentor or learning more about the program, please see this link.