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Coronavirus worries cause cancer patient rethink needed treatment

Posted at 4:22 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 12:34:55-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As coronavirus cases climb, a cancer patient faces an excruciating choice: Risk the trips to San Diego for potentially life-saving treatment or not.

He was the picture of health, but in 2014 at the age of 45, Bryce Olson was diagnosed with an aggressive, stage 4 prostate cancer.

"I couldn't believe it. No family history of prostate cancer. Exercised every day," said Olson.

Various treatments have kept his cancer at bay, but eventually, it began to grow again. About 10 months ago, the Oregon man began a clinical trial at Moores Cancer Center at UCSD, including IV immunotherapy treatment.

"Pretty ecstatic ... I've had pretty good success on it, kept the cancer contained," said Olson.

As part of the trial, he must fly in to San Diego for treatment every three weeks, a trip suddenly fraught with risk.

"Uber to the airport. Being in the airport. Being in an airplane. Getting an Uber to the hospital in San Diego ... makes me super anxious. Makes me feel like I'm a sitting duck," said Olson.

Six years of cancer drugs have left son's immune system compromised.

"Here's the irony. I may die of cancer in the mid term or long term, but I will probably die of COVID-19 if I get it," said Olson.

Olson recently made the painful decision to postpone his cancer treatments in San Diego.

"If I can get through this crisis - maybe miss some of my therapy - maybe I let the tiger a little out of the cage a little bit on the cancer thing. I feel like I could maybe reel that guy back in, but if I die of COVID-19, it's over," said Olson.

His decision is one many others with weakened immune systems are also facing, whether to make that trip to a hospital for treatment.

"Folks like me are faced with Sophie's choice. We either go in and get the treatment that will extend our lives ... But by doing so, we could catch a disease that could kill us today," said Olson.

There are some hoops to go through, but his San Diego doctors may be able to get him his infusion at an Oregon hospital. Even if that happens, he's not sure he'd go, because of all the same concerns.