How is the prostate cancer community faring during the COVID-19 outbreak? That’s a question I’m trying to answer every day. And like many during this pandemic, the answer depends on the day. Some days are better than others — some offer hope, while others offer deep disappointment.
With all the day-to-day adjustments and lack of normalcy we’re all facing right now, ZERO is prioritizing the well-being of prostate cancer patients and families. As an already vulnerable community, prostate cancer patients and families need ZERO to help now more than ever. That’s why in early April, ZERO conducted an informal email survey to see how prostate cancer patients and caregivers were coping during the COVID-19 crisis. Over 120 individuals responded. Their insights were illuminating.
Nearly a quarter of respondents feared deeply for their health, as their immune systems are already severely weakened by cancer. As you may know, cancer patients are at a high risk of severe illness with COVID-19, since the body has fewer resources to fight the virus. In addition to fearing for their health, another 20% of respondents fear losing their jobs and therefore their health insurance, or are already having a tough time making ends meet — how are they supposed to pay for treatments with no insurance, when it’s already hard enough to pay existing bills? Unfortunately, more and more patients are facing this harrowing dilemma.
And, in the catastrophic event of developing COVID-19 or facing increased difficulty during a cancer diagnosis, another quarter of respondents have fears around what this outbreak means for their prostate cancer treatment. Will the insurance phone lines be busy? Will appointments be canceled? Will the pharmacy be out of stock? These are all valid fears during this pandemic.
Finally, 10% of respondents feel totally alone during this pandemic. In self-isolation, without human contact, these respondents need someone to speak to — even virtually — to appease their fears and emotions. It’s heartbreaking to think of someone in need with no one to turn to, or nowhere to turn.
Thankfully, ZERO has resources for all of the above situations and scenarios. ZERO’s various patient support programs such as ZERO 360, MENtor, Caregiver Connector, and ZERO Connect offer exactly what patients and caregivers are looking for: information, guidance, and community.
ZERO360 helps patients navigate complicated financial and insurance matters. A phone call to ZERO360 can help patients make informed, smart, and safe decisions without having to risk exposure to the virus. A ZERO360 case manager can help patients and families navigate complicated insurance matters, and can advise on how to navigate COBRA and unemployment benefits in the event a patient or caregiver lost their job. Already, case managers have helped thousands of patients and secured millions of dollars in financial debt relief to go directly back into patients’ pockets.
For those seeking community or peer support during this time, ZERO Connect, MENtor, and Caregiver Connector are programs designed to connect patients and caregivers, respectively, to peers who can lend a shoulder to lean on during rough times.
As I’ve spoken to patients the last few weeks, the question that continually chokes me up the most is when a vulnerable patient asks, “Will I be okay after all this?” ZERO is here for you — our programs and patient support services exist to help ensure that patients WILL be okay after this pandemic. Together, we are stronger. Together, we will get through this.
The prostate cancer community is vibrant, passionate, and tough. If anyone can come through a crisis on the other side, it’s prostate cancer patients, families, survivors, and advocates. Let’s lean on each other, so that no one has to go through this tough time alone.
I encourage you to continue checking ZERO’s coronavirus resources, which include FAQs, a telemedicine guide, and more. Are there other ways ZERO can be supporting you during this time? Reach out to me. Hearing from patients is my favorite part of my day. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.