Cancer patients more vulnerable to COVID-19

Mary LingDr Mary Ling

Central Coast cancer patients have added their voices to a local doctor’s campaign supporting the NSW Government’s and NSW Health’s calls for communities to do right by their most vulnerable and stay home.

Central Coast breast cancer surgeon, Dr Mary Ling, launched her ‘Stay home and support Coasties with cancer campaign’ to coincide with the Easter/April school holidays.

The campaign includes the stories of locals living pre and post cancer and its Dr Ling’s hope that it will help drive home the message that no one should be putting themselves or others at unnecessary risk right now.

“Around the world, cancer patients have been left behind in the wake of the pandemic, as COVID-19 patients and those with other urgent life threatening needs take precedence,” Dr Ling said.

“In China, 35.7 per cent of cancer patients developed life threatening complications, 28 per cent died after acquiring COVID-19.

“In Italy, cancer patients represent 17 per cent of all COVID-19 fatalities,” she added.

Thankfully, the stats for Australia, and more specifically the Central Coast, are far less grim, with Dr Ling attributing that to the quick adoption of social distancing and other containment measures.

However, with the Easter/April school holidays upon us, Dr Ling said many of her patients had expressed their concerns about travellers flouting the rules prompting her to spearhead the campaign.

“In Australia, we watch and wait, but these holidays, cancer patients, doctors and politicians have united in an effort to protect the Coast’s most vulnerable, urging vigilant social distancing by locals, and for Sydneysiders to stay home,” Dr Ling said.

Green Point resident, Shea Wicks, is one such local patient who’s calling on all locals to do the right thing by one another over the next few months as part of Dr Ling’s campaign.

“I’m lucky because I have my beautiful husband David looking after me,” Wicks said.

Wicks was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 during a routine CT scan for a persistent cough, and she is undergoing chemotherapy, before awaiting surgery scheduled for May.

“I’m bald as a badger but outside of that I’m pretty calm.

“I feel very safe with my doctor and medical team in constant contact, but I do worry for the oldies on the Coast with breast cancer who are braving it alone.

“I hope what’s happening overseas doesn’t happen here, but the reality is that we only have a couple of thousand intensive care beds in Australia,” Wicks said.

According to Dr Ling, Australia is currently not heading towards the same trajectory as the US or Italy due to vigilant containment efforts, but warned that could change if too many people relaxed.

“We cannot be complacent.

“We don’t want to get to that point where the health system is overwhelmed and doctors have to choose between which patient gets an ICU bed.

“We need to follow the government messages for the good of all,” Dr Ling said.

Press release, Apr 13
Jane Worthington, for Dr Mary Ling