When Bridget Clawson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she naturally assumed that that was the disease she had to beat.
So when she survived a partial mastectomy, nearly a year of chemotherapy and weeks of radiation – only to wind up in a hospital emergency room with a case of viral pneumonia that almost killed her, the 59-year-old Edmonds, Washington, woman couldn’t quite believe it.
“I realized, oh my goodness, I could have died,” she recalled. “It was a shock that it could be anything else other than my cancer treatment.”
What Clawson didn’t know then – like most cancer patients and those who’ve just had stem cell transplants – is that ordinary viral infections can pose an extraordinary risk to people with compromised immune systems.