NEWS | April 6, 2020

Cancer does not take a break, even during COVID-19 pandemic


Her mammogram was suspicious. 3D mammography came next. Then an ultrasound, a breast biopsy and a diagnosis. Marlene Blake had breast cancer.

Cancer surgery patient Marlene Blake and surgeon Dr. Rick Bold at her post-surgery follow up appointment. Cancer surgery patient Marlene Blake and surgeon Dr. Rick Bold at her post-surgery follow up appointment.

“It all happened so fast, but in a good way,” said Blake, a UC Davis Health patient. “I got results quickly and surgery was set. Too many of my family members had already died from cancer, so I wanted to get in and get it done.”

So did UC Davis Health surgeon, Rick Bold. He recommended to Blake that she have a mastectomy.

"Unfortunately, in the current crisis of COVID-19, cancer is not taking a break,” Dr. Bold said. “Doctors are working with patients to make decisions that are the best for them, and for Marlene, that meant not delaying surgery."

With three masses in one breast and another suspected in the other, she was in agreement.

“I’m going to listen to my surgeon. He knows more than I do,” Blake said. “I had complete faith in him and in UC Davis.”

Her surgery was scheduled for March 23, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Blake was concerned her procedure was going to be postponed. A friend needed open heart surgery and his operation had been cancelled at another facility.

“I didn’t want to put it off. I’m still living and I choose life,” Blake said. “I’m still ill. Why would hospitals just let people die?”

UC Davis Health and Dr. Bold were not about to let that happen. Blake reported to surgery as planned.

“Whether there’s coronavirus or not, I want to stay healthy,” Blake said. “Was I fearful of what was going on? Of course, but there was no reason to panic. It was a reasonable decision to move forward.”

Upon arriving at UC Davis Medical Center, Blake liked what she saw.

“I knew it would be clean and hygienic, but it was neat and tidy and was actually a calming experience being there,” Blake said. “The staff was exceptional. They took time to explain everything and took away any worry or fear I had.”

In addition, Blake was pleasantly surprised by the mood of UC Davis Medical Center professionals in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They were all so cheerful. I don’t know how they managed it, but they did,” Blake said. “From the doctors to the nurses to the café staff, I have nothing but good things to say.”

Blake also felt confident knowing UC Davis was hard at work, doing everything to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I knew they were working on the virus while still taking care of those of us who needed help during this time,” Blake said. “I don’t know how long I’d have been here had they cancelled my surgery. I can’t express how grateful I am to Dr. Bold and UC Davis Health staff. They are true heroes.”


UC Davis Health is improving lives and transforming health care by providing excellent patient care, conducting groundbreaking research, fostering innovative, interprofessional education, and creating dynamic, productive partnerships with the community. For more information, visit