COVID Diaries: Cancer Checkups a Challenge During Pandemic


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ABUJA, NIGERIA - The lockdown is affecting me as it is millions of others across Nigeria. Authorities applied the measure weeks after Nigeria recorded its first case of the coronavorus Feb. 27. Now I'm stuck at home but I'm trying to make every moment count.

I had barely moved into my new house in the Wuye district of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, two weeks before authorities announced the lockdown in late March.

The lockdown has everyone staying mostly indoors, so I don't know many of my neighbors yet. But my pet dog, Sophie, keeps me company.

The lockdown does not restrict pet walks, so I take her around to get familiar with her new area. Sometimes I run with her to exercise and keep fit.

When we return from our routine walks, I try to catch up with my family in Lagos. It's been five years since I left home to take a job in Abuja. I visit them only once a year.

Father's cancer

In late 2018, my 72-year old dad was diagnosed with cancer of the trachea. He was unable to speak clearly for more than a year while he received chemo-radiation - a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

It was a very challenging period for my family, emotionally and financially.

But in March, he was declared cancer-free at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). We were advised to keep in touch with his physician and come back for checkups from time to time.

That was not going to be a challenge, we thought, until Nigeria's first case of the coronavirus was announced about one week later. LUTH was one of the hospitals where the index case sample was tested and confirmed.

Since he's not showing any serious signs of illness, we decided it was better to cancel his hospital visits until this whole thing blows over.

Rise in cases

In the weeks that followed, normal activities were gradually threatened by increasing cases, until the lockdown measure was applied. Lagos is Nigeria's epicenter of the coronavirus.

The lockdown has been on for five weeks now. Early this week, Nigeria's president announced that lockdowns would be eased beginning the following Monday to reduce the impact on citizens.

But with more than 1,900 cases of the coronavirus - mostly in Lagos and Abuja - Nigeria faces a high rate of community transmission. And with millions of people roaming the streets, it is unclear what the outcome will be.