Cancer patient forgoing chemo during COVID-19 pandemic

BOSTON — Some cancer patients who are seriously ill are foregoing treatment because of the coronavirus outbreak.

One of them is Braintree’s Jodi Killeffer. In 2015, Killeffer, the wife of a Braintree police detective, was pregnant with her first child, Cora, and receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer.

We then checked back in with her this past October after the birth of her son, Calvin. Sadly, when Jodi got pregnant with him, the breast cancer returned.

Now, Killeffer is forgoing chemo because of the coronavirus outbreak. She and her doctors made what could be a life or death decision by delaying chemo until at least June.

“I was supposed to go into Dana-Farber in the beginning of April for an IV chemo and I was also going to start an oral chemo pill. But the oral chemo drops my white blood cell count and this is no time to have a low white blood cell count,” she said. And going into the hospital to receive chemo was also determined to be too risky for Jodi when her doctors weighed the risks and benefits.

Dr. Steven Isakoff, the associate director for clinical research at Massachusetts General Hospital, helped develop national guidelines for managing breast cancer care during the pandemic. He says the chemo infusion room at MGH is running — almost at full capacity — but he says they’re limiting surgeries to patients with severe complications and life-threatening conditions.

“We have pretty high-quality data actually that managing patients prior to surgery with other medical approaches actually doesn’t compromise long-term outcomes,” said Isakoff.

And while MGH has limited all kinds of non-COVID-19 treatments and procedures, Isakoff also doesn’t want people to think hospitals can’t see people who need urgent care.

“What we want to make sure people know is if you’re having chest pain, if you’re having other symptoms of something that’s serious, please call or come,” urged Dr. Isakoff.

As for Killeffer, she is self-isolating and praying she made the right choice. “If my cancer spreads or it comes back I am going to think in the back of my head like ‘was it because I missed this?’"

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