A Cork woman who has survived cancer twice has called for people to be mindful of those with invisible underlying conditions amid the spread of Covid-19.
At just 25 years old, Shannen Joyce from Youghal has beaten stage three Hodgkin lymphoma twice and came out the other side of a stem cell transplant she underwent in November of last year..
She has spoken out about the importance of social distancing and isolating during the current pandemic that we find ourselves in and has warned of the detrimental impacts that catching the virus could have on vulnerable people.
Just four months after a stem cell transplant which left her with a very weak immune system, Ms Joyce now finds herself living in isolation with her partner Barry and three-year-old daughter Róisín.
Ms Joyce is prone to picking up little infections such as the common cold and the flu and is classed as a high-risk and vulnerable to catching Covid-19.
She has been protecting herself from catching “something as deadly as this virus” by not visiting or being in any public place, by stopping people calling to her home and by putting a halt on seeing family.
She said that she couldn’t even bear to think about what could happen if she was to catch the Covid-19 virus.
“I only had a stem cell transplant four months ago where they basically wipe your whole immune system and you start fresh again so you’ve kind of got a baby immune system going into it. That was only back in November and we’re now only at the end of March so my immune system is still very low and very weak.
“I’m very prone to picking up little infections like common colds and flus and things like that but something as deadly as this virus, I can’t bear to think about what could actually happen to me if I did catch it.
“I haven’t been going out anywhere public or anything like that. I was out today for the first time in probably four days. We went to a very isolated beach, just the three of us.
"We were at the beach and another family came down. We actually just left, not out of being rude or anything but just out of pure fright and I just didn't want to be around people so we just went home again.
“For Mother's Day and my dad's birthday, I saw them through the window. I just haven't been going out.” When it comes to shopping, she does a weekly online shop which is delivered to the front door, brought inside by her partner Barry and each item is cleaned before she can go near it.
If Barry pops to the supermarket mid-week for fresh fruit or veg, he changes his clothes and washes his hands when he comes home.
She said that they are being very strict because they have to be.
Ms Joyce said that seeing people continuing to meet up and gather in crowds is “infuriating” because they don’t realise the impact they’re having on other people.
“This is obviously a virus that spreads really easily and really quickly. I saw something the other day saying you can't outrun a sneeze and it's so true.
"I just think it's so important to stay indoors, only go out when necessary and if you need to go out and go for your walk for your own mental health, which I completely understand, go on your own or go with the people in your household.
“I fought very very hard in the last seven months, I've been away from my child in proper isolation in a hospital looking at four walls for three weeks to get my transplant.
“I have fought so hard through chemo and losing my hair and going through a battle of cancer again and I didn't do it for somebody to be ignorant about not following the HSE guidelines and going out and then they might make me sick.”
She applauded the people who are adhering to guidelines but said that there is still a minority who are ignorant to the seriousness of the virus.
“There's a lot of people who are doing it and biggest respect to them, but then there's a minority of people who think that they're above everything else and think that they're above this virus who are paying no attention to it and it's just ignorant really.” She said that it’s not just about social distancing and that people, especially those working in an environment where they could potentially catch the virus, need also to be mindful of door handles they might have touched which someone else who is high risk could then touch and catch the virus from.
“Just try to think about the vulnerable in our society. Just because somebody looks great and you see them out and about having their walk on their own, it doesn't mean that they wouldn't be impacted by this if they did catch it.
“Try to be a bit more mindful of those people in your community and know that they are there and they are vulnerable, it's not just the old or people with underlying issues that are visible. People do have underlying issues that you can't see.”
Ms Joyce has had to cancel all upcoming hospital and GP appointments as she cannot risk entering a hospital and also cannot risk a GP calling to the house.
“I had an appointment last Tuesday, as a result of all the medication and my chemo, I've developed an underactive thyroid so I had an appointment for that last Tuesday.
“It would have been my first appointment. It was actually really important for me to go to get this under control but I just couldn't take the chance so I had to cancel that.” She said that she has a check up with her oncologist on April 19, which is the date that the Government has extended the latest restrictions to, until further notice.
She said that not being able to get her bloods checked in the last two or three weeks is “scary” because she said she doesn’t know what’s going on inside her body right now.
“It's really important for me to get my bloods done every week because I need to keep track of how my bloods are and I haven't been able to get my bloods done since this started so that's quite scary because I don't know what's actually going on inside my own body right now.” She said that she does feel great but is a little tired. She said that not having the bloods done will not have a huge impact on her but that she will not know how high or how low her bloods are which is important and is one of the “little things that people don’t think of”.
To continue following Shannen’s journey, follow @big_c_and_me on Instagram.