I don’t worry about Corona virus because I have a higher risk of dying of cancer” ~ Julian

Julian is a 24 year old living in Perth, Western Australia, whose name has been changed to preserve his anonymity. He has been self-isolating since September for medical reasons. I spoke to him about living with Cancer during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Julian backpacking in Europe 9 months before he was given his diagnosis and a year                                         before the pandemic was declared by the WHO

“It was easier for me because I started off a lot worse than most people. Most people are just stuck in the confinements of their house, whereas I was in hospital for the first part of my diagnosis where for maybe three or four weeks, I missed out on Christmas, I was just in hospital the whole time. Comparatively staying home all day was pretty amazing to a hospital bed, so I didn’t really have any issues adjusting to being at home “

Nearly half of the earth’s population is now under some form of lockdown, for most of us that means staying indoors and not seeing friends. Whilst everyone has gone through some stages of boredom and frustration it’s hard to accept that this all might go on for much longer than we want. Julian has been living with a rare form of cancer called Mediastinal Yolk Cell Tumours which are located in the alveoli in his lungs. Because of this Julian has been living inside his home six months longer than the rest of us so as to not risk getting an infection whilst he underwent chemotherapy treatments. Stuck in hospital for the first three to four weeks after diagnosis he missed Christmas with his family and relied on the data on his phone to keep in touch and preoccupy himself. Staying in a hospital to staying inside was a welcome change.


“Since everyone is in the situation with me it’s easier to get a call from my mates cause everyone’s free, which wouldn’t happen if everyone was working 9 to 5 in the office”

Julian’s days usually start with a coffee and a bowl of fruit that his mother prepares the night before. Like most of us now the days are filled with movies, youtube, video chatting with friends and pursuing hobbies indoors. Despite having different tastes than his sister they make a compromise and watch a film together every night. With everyone inside for the foreseeable future these everyday routines have been normalised, not just for Julian, but for everyone else.

In fact, with everyone home it means that more people are free to communicate. Everyone has an experience of getting in touch with friends they used to see regularly, and perhaps reconnecting with old ones they didn’t have the time to catch up with before. This is perhaps the silver lining to all this, more time to be with family and those close to us. For Julian this is one aspect that has changed with the COVID-19 outbreak, “If there is one thing, at least I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The whole worlds on pause. It feels like everyone’s able to relate with me, on the same level as me. Whereas before it was like life was going by as normal and mine was the only one that was weird and now everything seems to be weird, which makes my situation seem a little bit relatable.

Perth has low numbers of infections. Being the most isolated city in the world, and travel restrictions in place Corona Virus isn’t of major concern. Although there were worries that the practices of self isolation and higher infection rates may affect Julian’s cancer treatments, “I’m just glad something’s happening now. A part of me was scared prior to this that nothing was going to happen. With Corona especially I was scared they were just going to be like ‘yeah, look. It’s going to be hard to get you into surgery, but we’ll try as soon as possible’, then I was scared that 3, 4 months would pass“.

It’s been difficult for Julian, but the on going pandemic has seen his housebound life as normal now. This is an interesting, if unexpected, effects of the global reaction to the virus. After months of seemingly ineffective chemotherapy, recently there were early signs that the cancer was decreasing in size. Julian is booked for surgery to attempt to remove the tumour, around the end of April.

One thought on “Living With Cancer In A Pandemic”

  1. This really puts you into touch with how it must feel to be in this difficult position. All the best hopes for Julian and his family.

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