I know you’re exhausted—two long years. The bottom line: it’s much better to avoid COVID than to assume you’re going to contract it sooner or later. Yes, most of us likely will. But this is no time to lower your defenses, especially those living with cancer, because:
- We don’t need to add burden to overwhelmed hospitals.
- Novel EUA antivirals and monoclonal antibodies are neither readily available nor well-distributed, yet.
- If you are hosting a blood cancer—especially a lympho-proliferative disorder—there is a 25% chance you have zero antibody protection after being fully vaxxed, which means you will most likely get pretty sick.
- COVID-19 May Promote Tumor Development in Patients with Cancer (preprint study, not yet peer reviewed)
This is a short update to my post All Vaxxed Up and Nowhere to Go: Cancer Patients and the Whole Damn Dilemma.
Things continue to move fast in the age of COVID. Complacency is not an option. Omicron is blowing up and the world at large is hopeful that this seemingly inescapable spike of natural infection will soon turn the page from pandemic to endemic.
The terms epidemic, pandemic, endemic are expressed in conjunction with a set of biological and statistical benchmarks. Put simply, they are how we officially refer to a stage or status of a disease, virus, or condition.
With Omicron’s omnipresence, we are well on our way to an endemic virus that will ‘always’ be present, but with a more predictable spread rate. And because it will be predictable, it will be more manageable, handled in what we might call yet another new norm.
Meanwhile, in the here and now…
For those of us living with cancer, this is what being proactive looks like right now … in 4 steps:
1. Using Therapeutics to Prevent and Treat COVID-19
The complexion of therapeutics ‘technically available’ is based on the latest information from the CDC. Published on December 31, 2021, it includes the complete FDA approved—fully approved or emergency use authorized—array of monoclonal antibodies, antivirals and, critically, for many, pre-exposure therapeutics for high-risk groups. Take the time to review this information as it applies to your specific situation.
2. COVID-19 Public Therapeutic Locator
Once you familiarize yourself with the current array of therapeutics, don’t rely on your oncologist or primary care physician to cover your back. They’re busy. The health system is strained. Be aware of what’s available to you to help ensure prevention of COVID, or from getting really sick in the event you contract it. The current array of therapeutics is impressive. What is unfortunate is their limited availability at this time.
Access the COVID-19 Public Therapeutic Locater to see what is available where you live.
I’ll take this one step further, and I make no guarantees for how your oncologist or primary care physician will react. If you are concerned about your own situation—or that of a loved one you are supporting—and at high risk, I suggest proactively requesting a script for one or more of these therapeutics.
My take on the situation
I would feel a lot better about having my medicine cabinet stocked rather than waiting around, perhaps contracting COVID, and then trying to chase down scarce supplies in my area. Of course, this does not include the monoclonal antibody cocktails that need to be infused (they are also somewhat scarce at the moment).
Yes, many of the therapeutics are scarce or otherwise in short supply. Some are just now starting to be distributed.
Call me selfish. Call me a hoarder. I’ve been called worse. But this isn’t like a Costco run on toilet paper. Given what we’ve seen over the last couple years, if I am an at-risk individual, I’m not relying on being able to access the right set of drugs at the moment I need them—when getting those particular drugs at that moment could make the difference between life and death. Be proactive.
3. COVID-19 Antibody Testing Information and Resources
I strongly advocate for everyone hosting cancer, solid tumors or blood cancers, to get their antibody level protection checked after the first two doses of vaccine, and after any subsequent booster doses.
I’ve written about this before:
While we don’t know exactly how to interpret the ‘level of protection’ conferred by an antibody response, from my perspective those who are immunocompromised should know more than if they got a response. They need an actual number. Because one day soon we will know what their clinical relevancy is. Knowing this baseline data cannot be a bad thing as the science continues to evolve toward knowing what the numbers actually mean—and how they may inform clinical decision-making as additional vaccine jabs may be recommended by the CDC.
4. Triple Down on Immune Resiliency
At the beginning of the pandemic I wrote about focusing on host immunity. This was before vaccines and monoclonal antibodies were available under EUA. We had Remdesivir, steroids, ventilators, and luck. In that order.
Now is the time to triple down on strengthening your immune function and resiliency through health-directed lifestyle behavior: nutrition, sleep, movement, relaxation, hydration, careful and consistent social interactions, and love.
Specific to supplements, I encourage you to work with a quality integrative or functional medicine physician, integrative oncology physician, dietician, or nutritionist. These licensed and credentialed folks have experience with contraindications and other considerations regarding your unique situation.
However, here’s what the Institute for Functional Medicine has to say as of October 15, 2021 regarding supplements and dosing to help protect against COVID. Again, I am not advocating that you follow these guidelines. They are general recommendations intended to support functional medicine practitioners. Use this information responsibly.
Quality masks, distancing, at-home testing, staying out of indoor places… you’ve heard this ad nauseam. Nothing more to be said there, but I would be remiss not to add this line. : )
Please share this post with those you know living with cancer and those that support them.
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Photo credit: bigstockphoto.com/mognev