A doctor aired her dirty laundry in public when she joked with the Duchess of Cornwall about domestic chores needed to support her cancer patient husband.
GP Lucy O’Connell made Camilla laugh when she confessed: “I’ve got his dirty washing in my bag”, and the duchess replied: “Life goes on.”
The pair met as Camilla chatted to patients and their families helped by Maggie’s, the cancer support centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London.
Cancer care has been severely affected by coronavirus, with one in three people living with the disease saying they have faced delays to treatment, diagnosis or missed appointments due to the pandemic, according to Cancer Research UK.
When Camilla arrived, she joined everyone else by putting on a face mask, and told Victoria Curran, head of Maggie’s centre at St Barts: “I expect Maggie’s is needed now more than ever.”
The duchess is president of the charity, which provides free psychological, practical and emotional support to patients and their families at centres across the country.
Dr O’Connell has been supported by Maggie’s while her 42-year-old husband, Andy, is undergoing stem cell treatment for a tumour at St Barts.
The 44-year-old told the duchess: “Unfortunately I can’t visit him because of the lockdown restrictions.”
Camilla sympathised, saying: “That must be really difficult.”
The London-based GP replied: “It’s really difficult”, and then said: “I can’t believe I’m meeting a member of the royal family and I’ve got his dirty washing in my bag.”
Camilla laughed as she said “Life goes on”, and Dr O’Connell added: “I got a call from the ward yesterday saying could I come in today and pick up his dirty laundry.”
Asked about her husband’s treatment, she said: “His tumour is not behaving, there is still a 40% cure for him – it’s fingers crossed.”
The duchess toured the modern building, which opened in 2017, and met a number of healthcare professionals working at the centre and patients still receiving care.
Camilla told one group that Maggie’s centres are “a very uplifting place”.
“You come out feeling a lot better,” she said. “You come in feeling a bit glum and come out feeling a different person.”
Ms Curran said a large part of Maggie’s work is now delivered digitally by video calls and emails or via telephone.
“Before lockdown we were seeing about 100 people a day, post-lockdown those numbers have reduced dramatically,” she told the duchess.
“Now it’s about 30 to 40 a day – it is under 50%, but we now also offer virtual support for those too afraid to come out, who are isolating, or feel they are at risk.”
The centre’s head said patients are deeply concerned about a range of issues.
“Huge anxiety – anxiety is through the roof,” she said.
“There’s the anxiety caused by a cancer diagnosis but then, on top of that, Covid, and the uncertainty of whether treatments will happen, if they’re getting the right treatment or not, or more at risk of Covid death from the treatment.”