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“If cancer doesn’t get me, COVID’s going to.”

Wednesday 12 January, 2022


Kathrine at the beachKathrine was in remission for ovarian cancer when she tested positive for COVID-19.

As someone with ovarian cancer and a weak immune system, when COVID-19 was first declared a pandemic, Kathrine was naturally concerned. 

“I’ve been very scared of getting it,” she said. “In the beginning, because no one knew anything about it, it was really scary. It was like, 'well if cancer doesn’t get me, COVID’s going to'." 

The mother of two adult boys was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer in 2018 and underwent surgery and chemotherapy at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

“Looking back, it was pretty overwhelming news, but I had the attitude that this is not going to get me,” Kathrine said.  

12 months ago, Kathrine received the wonderful news that she was in remission. Today she takes an oral medication called a PARP inhibitor and meets with her specialists every four months. Her medication means she’s immunocompromised.  

Kathrine’s been as prepared as she can be with the Omicron variant spreading around the world, having had her recommended three primary vaccinations. However, in early January, Kathrine and her two sons tested positive for COVID-19.

Kathrine and her sons smiling at the camera
Kathrine and her two sons tested positive for COVID-19. 

“I didn’t even have any idea that I was coming down with it,” she said. “I was just freaking out because my son was getting tested. The day after he tested positive, I started to come down with the scratchy throat and a slight headache. 

“When I woke up the next day, I knew for sure I had it, but I did two Rapid Antigen (RA), tests and both came back negative.”  

Not feeling well enough to wait in line for a PCR test, Kathrine rang first the COVID-19 hotline, but couldn’t get through, so then tried her GP for advice. 

“Most of the testing sites in my area, you’re either waiting six hours or they’re closed, and I wasn’t in a position to be able to wait that long,” she said. 

“I rang the GP thinking, how am I going to get myself tested? I can’t even stand up.”  

The person answering the phones at the GP was unable to offer advice and so Kathrine rang Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 information and support line 

“The nurses are awesome,” she said. “They’re easy to talk to and they help with almost any question you have. The fact that they rang again with a follow up call was very much appreciated.”

After discussing her situation, our nurse recommended that Kathrine contact the patient navigator service at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. 

“I rang the patient navigator line and she got back to me and gave me the information from the specialist I needed – to stop taking my cancer medication and go and get tested straight away.” 

It took Kathrine about 40 minutes to get to her nearest drive-through PCR testing centre and then an hour waiting for a test.

Kathrine and her dadKathrine and her elderly dad.

Having tested positive for COVID-19, Kathrine’s now isolating at home and has a follow up appointment with her cancer specialist in a week. She’s experienced a sore throat, fatigue, fever, headache, body aches and congestion, but overall, her symptoms have been manageable at home with paracetamol, plenty of fluids and rest.   

“I’d recommend to others to make yourself a pot of soup or a meal in advance, as you’ll have no energy to cook when COVID sets in.  

“I’ve got it now, it’s almost over, and I haven’t ended up in hospital so that’s a good thing.”  

With the recent announcement that all Australians, including those who are immunocompromised, will need a booster three to four months after their last primary dose, Kathrine’s resigned to another jab. 

“I was a bit scared of having the vaccine at first, so I rang Peter Mac to ask what I should do, and they were recommending everybody has the vax, so I had it,” she said.  

“Hopefully the fact that I’ve had the third has prevented me from ending up in hospital. So, if I have to have a fourth, I’ll have it. If I have to have a fifth, I’ll have it. It’s only a needle.”

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