We miss our loved ones. We miss going to sporting events, concerts — maybe even missing going to the office. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of so many, disrupting our routines and putting big social gatherings on pause.
This feeling of isolation can be unsettling and lonely for anyone, but if you’re a cancer patient or immunocompromised, added stress and anxiety may weigh on your mental health. As your guide in whole health, we’re here for you, and our teams can help you navigate those emotions with the utmost care.
COVID-19 Risks for Cancer Patients
Cancer patients, their loved ones and their caregivers all face a serious impact from social distancing and safety measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes cancer patients among those at a higher risk of serious illness from an infection, such as COVID-19. This is because some cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, can cause you to be immunocompromised. Cancer itself can also weaken your immune system and make it difficult to ward off infections.
Steps to Stay Safe
For people who are immunocompromised, the CDC recommends continuing any medications or treatments and keeping in touch with your health care provider, in addition to taking the following precautions:
Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel
Call your health care professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 or your illness
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
Keep away from people who are sick
Stay at home if possible
Stock up on necessary supplies, such as medication
Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others (at least 6 feet)
Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds each time
Facing Added Stress From COVID-19
For many cancer patients and their loved ones, stress levels can be high on any given day. Add coronavirus concerns to this and that stress is amplified. Many patients feel that dealing with cancer is one thing, but dealing with cancer during the coronavirus pandemic is another. Much of that stress comes from facing a higher risk of severe illness, and much comes from being unable to be with loved ones.
These concerns are understandable and absolutely valid, says Catherine Lindner, a licensed clinical social worker at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute.
“We have cancer patients who are already dealing with the ‘regular’ stress of living with an illness, and now with the added stress of COVID-19, our patients are experiencing intensified feelings of anxiety and depression,” Catherine says.
“This is a time where our patients need the most support, and with social distancing and limited contact with others, it’s difficult for them to get.”
Having a strong support system as a cancer patient is key. So, without regular in-person contact with friends, family and perhaps even a doctor, stress levels can increase. But there are many methods to help deal with these emotions at home and with us at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute.
Coping Methods and Support for Cancer Patients
Catherine shares that while many of her end-of-life patients are now able to have visitors as some guidelines have been relaxed, it’s still difficult, especially if family is out of town and would need to travel to see their loved one.
To help cope with the added anxiety, she recommends patients frequently check in with their oncologist and be honest about how they’re feeling. “Practicing a lot of relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and stretching, in addition to keeping a healthy diet, will help manage the stress,” she says. Catherine also encourages patients to limit their exposure to the news. “Stay updated on what will pertain to you and keep it at that.”
The CDC has also provided the following recommendations to help support yourself and help process your emotions from added stress, which Catherine recommends, too.
Call Your Doctor When You Need to
If daily stress is getting in the way of enjoying your usual activities for several days in a row, give your health care provider a call and explain your concerns.
Connect With Others
This is harder to do right now with social distancing in place, but you can talk with people you trust and share your feelings with loved ones over the phone, text message or video chat. Find more ideas in our blog post.
Take Breaks From the News
Hearing the coronavirus news updates often can be stressful and cause more harm than good. Try to limit watching, reading or listening to the news.
Take Care of Your Body
Deep breathing and stretching can help ease your mind and calm racing thoughts. Try to eat healthy, go for walks when you can and get plenty of sleep.
Try to find time for activities you enjoy, such as puzzles, books, catching up on your favorite television series or taking your dog for a stroll.
These methods can be practiced every day to help ease stress brought on by coronavirus and your illness, but we also have great resources available through the AdventHealth Cancer Institute to give you additional mental health support.
Usually, our support groups, nutritional guidance and therapeutic services are available in person before, during and after treatment. And while we hope to get back to those in-person meetings soon, right now we’re still offering many support options via video visit to help us all stay connected in a safe way.
“We’re here to guide you through emotional and mental concerns that are only natural to arise, especially during the coronavirus spread. Whether you need a shoulder to lean on or counseling support, we are here for you and we will get through this together,” says Catherine.
Right now, classes are available to join by video visit in areas of:
We’re Here for You and Your Loved Ones
If you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, or know someone who is, the AdventHealth Cancer Institute is here for you with expert care that keeps you protected and eases your mind. Find the support you deserve and learn more about services at AdventHealthCancerInstitute.com.