The COVID-19 pandemic has been a scary and difficult thing for most of the world, and it’s important to keep safety protocols in place where they’re reasonable. However, in some cases, quarantine and shutdowns have caused just as much harm as good for people. Kelly Smith was one of those cases.
The 31-year-old mother was forced to stop chemotherapy treatments for her bowel cancer in March due to the coronavirus restrictions and shutdowns. Her doctors told her that England’s National Health Service was trying to open up more hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, so she would have to wait a few months to start her treatment again.
Kelly was understandably upset about the cessation of her treatment. She knew the aggressive cancer wasn’t going to wait around until the hospital was ready to take her on again.
“I’m angry at COVID and that I got put on this break, because I don’t think I should have,” Kelly said at the time. “I’m terrified — absolutely terrified. I don’t want to die. I feel like I’ve got so much more to do.”
Sadly, Kelly’s cancer continued to spread while she was off of her treatment for the next several weeks, and she passed away on June 13th, 2020, about three months after her treatments were paused.
“Cancer is not a disease where you can put people on the shelf for three months,” says professor Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist at the University of Buckingham. “It’s not like hip replacements or cataract surgery where patients on the waiting list face immense discomfort—if cancer isn’t diagnosed and treated promptly, it can spread, and more people will die.”
Kelly’s story is a tragic one, and it’s far from being the only one of its kind. Many people in England and across the globe have suffered from delayed diagnoses, treatments, drug trials, and surgeries during the pandemic. Roughly 3 million people in the UK alone are still awaiting screenings for different diseases, and as many as 35,000 extra people may die next year as a result of pandemic lockdowns.
It’s absolutely vital to do what we can to protect each other during this time, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. However, it’s unacceptable that screenings and procedures that save people’s lives should be halted as well. Hopefully, Kelly’s story can be a lesson to others; it’s so important to get screened for these deadly diseases early and often!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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