Meghan Malley: Navigating Cancer during COVID-19

Navigating Cancer during COVID-19

At just 29 years old, Meghan Malley was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2011. Throughout the course of nine years, a lot has changed. She’s undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and adjusted her lifestyle in many ways. Through it all, one thing remained constant: the exceptional care provided by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Malley knew that she would have the support of her care team, even as new challenges arose.

While many things in the world were uncertain, things were running smoothly at Karmanos. "Cancer can feel stressful at any time but the change was seamless. There is someone there to greet you and a great level of service from nurses and doctors. They’re just as wonderful as always," said Malley.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic began in March, Malley has visited the Detroit campus and the Weisberg Cancer Center in Farmington Hills for multiple appointments. At those visits, her care team continued to offer encouragement and support, even though their smiles were hidden behind masks. One significant change during these appointments was the visitor restriction policy. To keep patients safe, guests were not allowed to attend most appointments. Luckily, Malley was able to attend an important visit virtually, allowing her to have the support of her husband and the comfort of being at home.

“At first I was a little hesitant (about a virtual visit) but it was nice that my husband was able to be present and participate,” she said. “Being able to talk with my doctor and see his face without PPE, in a way, it made the appointment more comforting.”

As she adapted to changes, Malley felt prepared to cope with challenges brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic. Living with metastatic breast cancer, a chronic form of cancer, she is used to practicing the CDC-recommended wellness techniques that have now become mainstream, such as handwashing. Perhaps more importantly, she felt confident in her ability to tackle the challenge mentally and emotionally.

“With cancer, there is always uncertainty around the corner. You could feel fine one minute and the next, scan results could change everything. Learning to navigate through these anxieties has helped me to mentally prepare.”

Malley is connected to many other young cancer patients and survivors through the Karmanos Young Adult Support Group, which she founded for those in circumstances similar to her own. She says that the support of others is priceless and that that many are experiencing similar reactions to the pandemic. "It has been an interesting dynamic. I think we’re better prepared for the uncertainty that others are just learning to deal with."

Overall, Malley remains grateful for her Karmanos team, despite the many challenges she has faced. "I already trusted them with my life. Putting COVID on top of it didn’t change anything, it just makes me even more grateful."