For cancer patients, fear of measles has upended daily routines

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For cancer patients, fear of measles has upended daily routines

“Hand-washing is huge, but it’s not going to save me from the measles,” one leukemia survivor said. “I am freaked out by this.”

Deb Horning, a survivor of a rare form of acute leukemia, never leaves her house without hand sanitizer, wipes and a face mask.

She recently stopped into her son’s high school to ask what percentage of students had been vaccinated against measles. Next month, the Billings, Montana, mother of four is supposed to fly to her hometown of Chicago — a trip she is considering canceling for fear that it might expose her to measles, a disease once declared eliminated in the United States that is now popping up in outbreaks across the country.

Horning was diagnosed with the blood cancer in October 2014, and was told the type she had has a 25 percent chance of survival. Following intensive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, her leukemia is now in remission. But the treatment wiped out her immune system, leaving her “like a newborn,” she said.

As a result, Horning, 47, has no natural protection against contagious illnesses, and is susceptible to getting a more severe case of whatever she catches. Measles, a systemic infection, could kill her.

“All the things that I had to deal with — I’ve survived all this stuff — just to get whacked by the measles? I didn’t go through all this for that.”

“I think hand washing is huge, but it’s not going to save me from the measles, and yes, I am freaked out by this,” Horning said. “All the things that I had to deal with — I’ve survived all this stuff — just to get whacked by the measles? I didn’t go through all this for that.”

There have been more than 760 cases of measles in America this year — the highest number in 25 years. The disease, a common childhood illness decades ago that is now preventable with vaccines, was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but has made a resurgence in 2019, with cases in 23 states so far.

Read on: For cancer patients, fear of measles has upended daily routines

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