Coronavirus pandemic forcing surgery delays, treatment changes for patients with other chronic ... .




Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Jodie Leworthy has either been at her Melbourne home or in hospital.

The 32-year-old was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in January.

It's been a lonely time for the mother-of-two, who hasn't been able to have friends or extended family close by due to COVID-19 restrictions and her weakened immune system.

She said her husband Nathan had been an incredible support and was keeping their two boys, Cove, 5, and Mav, 3, happy while she has been in hospital.

"It takes a village to get through something like this," Ms Leworthy told 7.30.

"At the moment, there's no village.

Chemo doses amended

Jodie Leworthy with bald head, lies on a sofa with her two sons
Jodie Leworthy has been missing contact with her husband and two sons during treatment.(Supplied: Jodie Leworthy)

Ms Leworthy said the coronavirus outbreak has affected her chemotherapy treatment and seen some of her surgeries delayed.

She said her chemo dose was reduced so she didn't get as sick and have to stay in the Frankston Hospital overnight.

"That was a real blow to my whole family."

Felicity Topp, chief executive at Peninsula Health, said it was not unusual for chemotherapy doses to be changed.

"Exceptional patient care is always our priority," she said in a statement.

"As confirmed by our head of oncology, if an individual responds negatively to treatment or needs to be hospitalised in response to a prescribed chemotherapy dosage, it is not unusual for the doses to be amended to help a patient manage their treatment."

Ms Leworthy, who is part of a support group for chronically ill patients, said having appointments or surgeries delayed was stressful.

"You're thinking, 'Oh, this thing inside me is growing and I can't have my surgery.' I just want it gone," she said.

"There are so many women in that group that are having the same issue: cancelled surgeries, delayed appointments."

She has also had to take multiple COVID-19 tests because common side effects of her treatment, such as headaches and vomiting, are similar to coronavirus symptoms.

Rethink needed for chronically ill

Jodie Leworthy lying in a hospital bed next to a drip with a lady outside, waving through the window
Jodie Leworthy says there needs to be a rethink about how chronically ill patients are treated during the pandemic.(Supplied: Jodie Leworthy)

Ms Leworthy thinks a commonsense approach is needed for chronically ill patients during the COVID-19 crisis.

"My medical team, my oncologist, my breast surgeon, my plastic surgeon, my nurses — I think they 100 per cent want me to live and I truly feel that they actually care and they want the best for me," she said.

"I just think the Government needs to rethink how they're treating patients that are already chronically ill.

Ms Topp said Peninsula Health was taking the COVID-19 crisis into account when treating patients.

"We know that COVID-19 can significantly impact immunosuppressed patients, so we have a low threshold to testing those patients, in line with current DHHS guidelines," she said.

'All you want to do is fight'

Jodie Leworthy's sister phones her from the hospital car park.
Jodie Leworthy's sister phones her from the hospital car park.(Supplied: Jodie Leworthy)

Rebecca Olson, a sociologist at the University of Queensland, said COVID was adding to the challenges people dealing with major life events were facing.

"I think a lot of us are in a state of grieving, a kind of extended state of grief for the lives we had before, the forms of support that we had before and the forms of connection that we had with those in our community," Dr Olson said.

"So how difficult it might be for someone who is starting a new family or who has experienced a life-changing diagnosis, these challenges are compounded with COVID-19."

As for Ms Leworthy, she is focusing on one day at a time.

"At the moment there's no real end in sight, to be honest. I've still got a good year or two of cancer treatment surgeries," she said.

"The minute someone tells you you've got cancer, all you want to do is fight.

"You want to do whatever you can to get rid of it, especially for my children and my husband."