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The pandemic poses more challenges for breast cancer patients

Not only has there been a delay in some diagnoses, but a common type of reconstruction surgery has also had to be paused for a third time.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A return to traveling. A return to teaching.

For Jennifer Hall, a teacher from Liberty Township near Cincinnati, there's now a sense of normalcy after the most challenging time of her life.

When asked to describe what it has been like to go through breast cancer treatment during a pandemic Hall responded with one word: “lonely.”

"When they put my port in my husband had to drop me off,” she explained. “And you're all by yourself."

Outside her home or the hospital, there was only one place she could go.

“I had a lot a lot, a lot of support on the front porch of people coming and sitting with me on the front porch,” Hall said. “But then as it got colder, my husband got a fire pit for us."

Credit: Jennifer Hall

The pandemic made Hall’s journey to remission an isolating one. The pandemic has also posed more challenges for breast cancer patients.

"In the start of the pandemic, which was in March through the end of May, all screening mammograms were suspended,” said Dr. Natalie Jones, a surgical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer surgery at OhioHealth. "It has delayed some diagnoses."

Dr. Jones is urging women to stay on top of routine care by getting mammograms and rescheduling any postponed or canceled appointments.

She said due to the delta-driven increase in hospitalizations when it comes to reconstruction surgery, there’s now this:

"One of the options for women is autologous tissue flap-based reconstruction, we call them deep flaps. Those have been put on hold again now for the third time because it usually requires a 3-day hospitalization," she explained.

However, Dr. Jones says there's been one advancement.

"We've actually figured out through the pandemic how to do most of our mastectomy surgeries even with reconstruction as outpatient surgery,” she said. “So the majority of our patients do not spend the night in the hospital and go home the same day.”

For patients like Jennifer Hall, the pandemic has proved one thing: community support is powerful

She found that not only on her porch but through a blog written by the mom of one of her students.

“She was metastatic,” she said. “And her blog is called 'Do Today Well.'"

An author who will never know the support she provides today.

"I pulled up her blog so many times during my journey,” said Hall. “Like I had this friend from the past to help walk me through cancer."

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