Finding the strength to seek care during the pandemic

[2 MIN READ]   

This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters. 

In this article

  • It is still important to get routine medical tests even during the pandemic. 
  • Providence St. Mary has implemented safety measures to ensure the health and well-being of all patients. 

When dystopian images began to emerge out of hospitals in New York and Italy—early epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic—Sue Jones, 50, of Apple Valley, couldn’t help but wonder if going to the hospital for a routine diagnostic test was worth the risk of contracting this new and unknown disease.  

“Watching the news of all these COVID hotbeds made me think going into any clinic would be like going into COVID central,” Jones says. “I remember thinking, Do I really want to go in, or wait it out a bit? I didn’t want to get exposed.” 

Why health screenings are important 

As the news became increasingly disturbing, Jones was reluctant to make an appointment, but she couldn’t completely dismiss the idea of the need to get her annual mammogram screening. Just five years earlier, doctors had discovered a large tumor on one of Jones’ ovaries, a cancer scare she describes as “mind-numbing.” Doctors believed there was roughly a 95% chance the tumor was malignant. “It was a shocking experience. I didn’t believe it could be true,” she says.  

Two days after the tumor was found, Jones was sent to a gynecologist to undergo more tests, before being referred to University of California, Irvine Medical Center to see an oncologist.  

At the time, she was living on-base at Fort Irwin. As Jones drove two and a half hours each way to her appointments, many fears would surface. She believed she had ovarian cancer, which has a very low survival rate. “I was driving on autopilot. You can get yourself in a very bad mental state, especially when you start looking things up online,” she recalls.  

Soon after seeing the oncologist, Jones underwent surgery to remove the tumor. When the doctors told her it had a low malignant potential, Jones says she felt like she’d won the lottery. The weeks of uncertainty and trepidation, however, had a lasting impact and became a powerful reminder of the importance of early detection.  

Trust hospital safety plans  

As Jones worked through her concerns about going in for a medical test during the pandemic, a turning point came when she had an informal conversation with the communications manager at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Jones, who is the spokesperson for the City of Victorville, learned of all the safety precautions implemented by hospitals across the country to limit the spread of the virus. It was this reassurance that convinced her to schedule an appointment.  

After her screening, Jones found out she had early-stage breast cancer, but thankfully the outlook was good.

“Because I caught it so early,” Jones says, “I have a favorable prognosis and much higher survival rate, which is why early detection is so critical.”

And because the tumor was small and the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes, Jones had multiple treatment options available to her, and eventually decided to have a lumpectomy and radiation.  

Jones admits her first cancer scare helped her to be mentally prepared for her current situation, but she realizes things could have turned out quite differently had she delayed getting treatment because of her initial fears. “If the tumor had been larger and if it had spread to other tissue, I’d have to have a mastectomy and a whole host of additional surgeries,” explains Jones.  

Don’t delay regular screenings 

A study by Epic Health Research Network of 39 health systems from a total of 100 hospitals in 23 states found that in the very early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, routine screenings for breast, colon and cervical cancers dropped as much as 94% from the January average.  

Jones is grateful she followed through with her checkup and hopes that telling her story will help others who might be suffering from similar COVID-related fears. “Please don’t delay routine tests, because early detection is so, so important to your health and future,” she says.  

“From my experience, I believe health care professionals take extraordinary protections to safeguard you. Don’t worry about going to the hospital. You’re in good hands.”  

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Find a doctor 

Cancer screenings save lives and Providence doctors are here to help you manage your health and schedule cancer screenings. You can find a primary care doctor near you in our online provider directory. 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions. 

About the Author

The Providence Cancer Team is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date insights about treatments, prevention, care and support available. We know cancer diagnoses strain you both mentally and physically, and we hope to provide a small piece of hope to you or your loved ones who are fighting the cancer battle with useful and clinically-backed advice.

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