By André, Montréal
My name is André, and I live with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Since I was diagnosed in 2010, I have gone through the stages of treatments and side effects of CLL/PLL and secondary cancers with resilience and hope for better days, thanks to the support of my hematologist-oncologist and that of specialists and patient support organizations like the LLSC.
My recent experience with COVID-19 was distressing but enriching from a human perspective. I have decided to share it with you to ease the anxiety shared by so many, and show that it is possible to get through it and that you can recover without having long-term effects.
I was most likely infected through community spread. The symptoms started suddenly, with very intense night sweats, and persisted for the following days and nights. As I had no experience with COVID-19, I thought that these symptoms were related to my CLL. However, to make sure that it wasn’t COVID-19, I went and got tested. Afterwards, I received an email with a negative result, which was later discovered to be positive.
Because my symptoms persisted, I tried to contact my hematologist-oncologist and my family doctor. This is no easy task during a pandemic. After three days of trying, I was finally able to have a phone call with my family doctor, who knew—without letting on—that it was probably COVID-19. He emailed me a referral for an ER visit and recommended I go to the hospital as soon as possible.
I chose a hospital in Montreal where most of the specialists I see have a practice there. Because of my condition, I was seen quickly. I underwent a series of tests, including another COVID-19 test, which came back positive. Due to the state I was in, I was placed in isolation and remained under observation for three days. I was not administered any specific treatment. On the doctor’s recommendation, I continued taking the antiviral medications that I had started two days before I was admitted.
While I was hospitalized for three days, I had blood taken each morning and evening, as well as a blood sugar test. I must say that I received excellent care. Gradually, my condition improved, and I was discharged on the fourth day. Some of the symptoms took longer to resolve, particularly the night sweats and my appetite.
After about six weeks and with a little effort—eating despite the lack of appetite and slowly starting to exercise again—I got my body back to the way it had been. I think that I was lucky, and that my regular exercise helped me to recover quickly and without any side effects.
All in all, yes, it’s important to be careful and wary of COVID-19, especially when you have a chronic illness. But I want you to know that it is possible to get through it without long-term effects, even if you have a weakened immune system. The pandemic also makes it difficult to access our specialists and family doctors, so you should not hesitate to call 911 or go to the ER. We are so lucky to have access to dedicated staff and good healthcare.