It’s a different world today for Mark Singer. The Oklahoma City resident still puts on a suit and tie every day and goes to work at one of the few stores remaining open at Penn Square Mall. But his workday is far from normal.
“One day we had 12 people in the store,” he said. “That included associates, managers, customers and shoplifters.”
Singer tries to maintain his sense of humor in these coronavirus-laden times. It’s something he learned two years ago when he found out he had cancer.
“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018,” he said. “I also kept having pain in my hips when I walked, and the cancer had spread to my left hip bone. So, I began a series of radiation treatments for 10 days, for 10 minutes each day. The first treatment was very painful while they were setting the radiation beams to the right spot. But by the end of the treatment, the pain in my hips was gone.”
Today Singer continues fighting cancer but is unsure how the coronavirus pandemic will affect his treatments, and ultimately, his health.
“I take a daily chemo pill and get a shot every month in my oncologist’s office,” he said. “I walk better and feel better, so I know the treatments are working. But right now, the coronavirus has stopped all my treatments.”
Unfortunately, Singer’s story is not unusual. The American Cancer Society continues to field calls from patient’s who are struggling amid a global pandemic.
“These are unprecedented times,” said Lesa Foster, executive director for American Cancer Society of Oklahoma. “I have been with ACS for 25 years, first as a volunteer then as a staff member. I know I am not the only one struggling for answers these days.”
Foster works remotely with her staff in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle to find ways of shuffling events and postponing fundraisers, all while coordinating efforts with ACS leadership.
“Cancer doesn’t stop and neither do we,” she said. “The life-saving research we do every day must continue, even as we try to find new funding sources. We are also working on solutions to help cancer patients who depend on our services. None of this is easy, but cancer patients are fighters and so is the American Cancer Society. We have been around for more than 100 years and have made such a difference in people’s lives in the fight against cancer. I know we will get through this new crisis together and come out stronger.”
The American Cancer Society directs those with questions to the website at Cancer.org, or the Helpline at 1-800-227-2345.
“We have a lot of great information about COVID-19 on our website,” Foster said. “We also just launched a ‘Support Us’ page that highlights ways to help continue the fight against cancer even while we are fighting the Coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, cancer patients like Singer try to remain optimistic.
“I’m still working in the retail business, even though our hours have been significantly reduced,” he said. “I have a simple cancer, and there are so many cancers that are worse than mine. I continue to support the American Cancer Society, because their research and services are so important to people like me.”
The bottom line, Singer adds, is to remain positive whether you’re fighting cancer or COVID-19.
“Do not let this get you down,” he said. “Yes, we may feel like giving up, but we can’t do that. During radiation treatments I went to work and never missed a day. Keep your head up and fight. I’m not sure what will happen with my cancer treatments, but I am not giving up.
“My advice to others, even during these times of social distancing, is to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. This is just a moment in time, and we will survive.”