Harvey Budd, 72, agreed that living with cancer during a pandemic has been depressing at times, but he and his wife, Ilene, are thankful for the care they have received.
“Life has been a series of ups and downs — this is just another bump in the road,” he said. “We’re so lucky as a community to have UF Health around the corner.”
When Budd, a former Gainesville city commissioner and president of Budd Broadcasting Co. Inc., first started his cancer treatment at University of Florida Health in January, his visits were accompanied by smiling faces, busy parking lots, hot coffee machines, free snacks and an unguarded door.
Two months later, all of that changed when COVID-19 hit the United States. Now, the friendly faces are covered by masks, the parking lot is barren, coffee and snacks have disappeared, and patients and visitors are met at the door by a staffer waiting with a thermometer.
“I was doing social distancing before it was cool,” said Budd, who was diagnosed with the blood cancer, diffused large B-cell lymphoma. “Cancer and COVID-19 together makes you much more aware of the precautions you need to take.”
COVID-19 didn’t stop Budd and his health care team, including oncologist Nam Dang, M.D., Ph.D., from continuing his treatment plan. Every 21 days for five months, Budd and Ilene made the short trip from their Gainesville home to UF Health for a day of chemotherapy and lumbar puncture therapy, a procedure that puts chemo into the spine to create a barrier between the cancer and the brain.
By the end of his chemotherapy, Budd was officially cancer free. His positive experience at UF Health made him want to stay within the institution for his next form of treatment — radiation. He’ll be traveling from Gainesville to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in Jacksonville.
“We cannot say enough about Dr. Dang,” Budd said. “If we could have hugged him at the end of six chemo treatments, we would have — if COVID-19 wasn’t in the way.”