How cancer prepared me for coronavirus | COMMENTARY

Recovering from cancer and chemotherapy is a challenge on its own. But having to deal with that, along with my job as a high school sports reporter and the outbreak of the coronavirus has been intriguing, to say the least.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just a little over a month after I began working with the Baltimore Sun Media last summer. From July until January, I had 12 rounds of chemotherapy, along with the sickness and all of the horrific side effects — including the overwhelming thoughts that went through my head on a daily basis. Would I accidentally touch someone who had a cold or the flu? What could I do if I got sick?


During the course of my chemotherapy, I kept disinfectant wipes and spray, vitamin C powder, hand sanitizer, face masks and a number of other items at the ready to protect my health. I still got sick, however. There were days after my treatments where I’d get a cold, it would go away, and then I would get treatment two weeks later and get sick once again.

After the chemo ended Jan. 20 — the same day the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S. — it left me with a weakened immune system for several weeks. Simply doing my job became worrisome.


As a high school sports reporter, I often introduce myself with a handshake, which can lead to the transfer of germs — germs that could ravage my immune system. Packed gyms are also a hotbed for viruses and bacteria, as players sweat, students and other fans cough and sneeze.

Then there was church. I’m in the midst of taking Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes to join the Catholic faith. Weeks ago, there were still handshakes, and people dipping their fingers into the holy water and passing the communal cup of wine. All of that was detrimental to me. But as my immune system strengthened, the precautions others took because of coronavirus grew. Churches and other houses of worship stopped encouraging touching, first, then stopped congregating altogether.

Same with sports. All public schools are closed in Maryland for the next two weeks, and any sporting events cancelled. Even the professional sports teams are taking a pause: The National Basketball Association suspended its regular season, Major League Baseball canceled spring training and delayed the season’s start, the National Hockey League suspended games, the PGA Tour cancelled the Player’s Championship, and so on.

The times that we live in are so strange.

I may not be immuno-compromised anymore, but I’m still well prepared.

Every day that I step into the office at The Baltimore Sun, which may not be for too much longer as we move to a telework model, I wipe down my desk with disinfectant wipes. Before that, I wipe down my steering wheel before driving into work. I have loads of antibacterial soap at the house, along with wipes and other things.

I’ll also wash my hands before and after every meal, going to the gym, usage of electronics, etc. In the event that I get sick or others around me are coughing, I have three boxes of protective face masks at my office, at my home and in my car.

Cancer prepared me well for the coronavirus. I get the irony: Something that nearly killed me, trained me to beat something that’s killing others. Some 130,000 people are infected worldwide, and 5,000 people have died — many of them because of compromised immune systems.


I’m no longer in that demographic, and I’m thankful for it every day. I also understand why I have to continue to protect myself to protect others. If I get coronavirus, I will likely shake it off relatively quickly as a young, now healthy person. But I could pass it on to someone who’s struggling, like I once was.

So, let me leave you with this:

Please wash your hands and clean — profusely. You aren’t just in control of your health right now. You have a large responsibility for the health of people who are immunocompromised, the very young and the elderly. With so many people at risk, you have a duty to keep them safe. It’s time for all of us to re-evaluate our hygiene and make it a priority for others to emulate so that we can prevent another outbreak such as this one.

This isn’t about just you or just me. It’s about all of us, caring for each other.

Kyle J. Andrews ( is a high school sports reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group.