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Wendy Coates

Cancer Amidst Coronavirus

Holy Name Cancer Patient stories - Wendy Coates

May 2020

Just as the coronavirus pandemic was raging in New Jersey and New York, Wendy Coates found out she needed chemotherapy. Unfortunately, her cancer had returned and she needed to keep the disease in check. She couldn't wait for the virus to recede to get treatment.

Wendy lives in the Upper West Side of Manhattan but her physician, Dr. Sharyn Lewin, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Holy Name, works out of the Teaneck campus, so Wendy followed her to New Jersey. Dr. Lewin told Wendy to stay off the subways and don't take a bus but she could use a car service while wearing a mask to get to the Teaneck hospital, where she would be safe to receive treatment.

"If Dr. Lewin says I'll be safe, then I know I'll be safe," Wendy, 63, said. "She's extraordinary and I trust her completely."

Dr. Lewin had first treated Wendy's ovarian cancer in a New York hospital and Wendy had been cancer free for more than five years. Though she had grueling chemotherapy after her surgery, this round, like the last one she had after a recurrence, would be easier, Dr. Lewin promised.

So Wendy returned to the Patricia Lynch Cancer Center for her infusion therapy just as the hospital was the epicenter for COVID-19 in New Jersey. Hundreds of patients were in the emergency room and other parts of the hospital for testing and treatment. All non-emergency procedures had been postponed and visitors were restricted.

Holy Name led the way in providing protective gear for staff members and built new patient areas for COVID-19 patients that kept them separate from other areas of the Medical Center. Meantime, treatment was still provided for patients who needed ongoing care such as those in the Cancer Center.

"When I walked into the Cancer Center, everyone was wearing masks but the staff was just as friendly as ever," Wendy said. "They remembered me and greeted me by name - I certainly felt comfortable. They took my temperature and were very nice about it. And with the new infusion center, you have your own private area so I wasn't even aware of other patients there."

At one point, Wendy did realize there were changes at Holy Name. After one infusion session, she left through the front lobby of the hospital.

"It was all closed — the Starbucks, gift shop — everything was shut down and there were no visitors around," Wendy said. "It was a little eerie but I knew I was safe. The staff had all been wearing protective gear and I didn't come in contact with other patients."

As for her treatment, Dr. Lewin was right — this chemotherapy was much easier on Wendy. She has been able to continue working as an executive assistant in the banking industry. As like most other non- frontline workers, she's doing her job from home.

"I feel good and I'm coming to terms with this recurrence," Wendy said. "Dr. Lewin explained the cancer isn't a clump of cells - only very tiny pieces that can barely be detected on scans. I can handle this because it hasn't metastasized. I know this will be with me for quite a while in some form or another. But I have a strong faith and a great support system of family, friends, and of course, Dr. Lewin and the staff at Holy Name."

Learn more about Wendy's ObGyn Physician at Holy Name