Cancer and COVID-19: What can I do to help myself and others?

By Bonney Elliott on March 16 / 2020

[Cancer, Cancer Coaching, Caregivers, News]Comments

With everything going on right now, we at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation are especially concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people living with cancer or caring for someone impacted by the disease.

Why? Because people coping with cancer:
  • Are at more serious risk for complications if they contract the virus.
  • May already be immunocompromised due to the cancer, treatments, and ongoing stress.
  • Are often already coping with serious symptoms and side effects.
  • May already feel like they are a burden to their friends and family.
  • Are depending on a health care system that is currently overwhelmed.
  • Have increased exposure to risks of infection with medical appointments and hospital visits.
  • May already feel the impact of prolonged social isolation.
  • Are at higher risk for anxiety and depression.
  • May find it difficult to distinguish symptoms of COVID-19 from side effects and symptoms they are already experiencing on a day-to-day basis, such as fatigue and muscle and joint pain.
  • Are at risk for financial strain due to further loss of work income and the costs of treatment.
  • Like many of us, juggle caregiving responsibilities for children and elderly relatives.
What can I do to help myself and others?
  • Stay informed of public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Follow recommendations for social distancing, self-quarantine and testing.
  • Stay in contact with your health care providers. Reach out to them with questions specific to your situation. Many issues can be resolved over the phone without the need for a visit.
  • Check out cancer-specific associations such as the Canadian Cancer Society.
  • Speak to a cancer coach. Our services are free of charge, available to both people living with cancer and their caregivers, and are accessible currently by phone or virtually. We are here to help:
  • Offer, ask for and accept concrete offers of help, such as picking up and dropping off groceries, medications and essentials, walking a dog, or shovelling a driveway. We are all in this together.
  • Consider picking up the cost of goods and services for someone else if you have the means.
  • Remember the basics: fresh air, movement, nutrition and strategies for managing stress. Check out on-line platforms for fitness, yoga and meditation.
  • Stay connected. Social contact is fundamental to mental health. Check in regularly, by phone, email, or virtually. Consider on-line cancer and caregiver support groups, such as
  • Be mindful of what you share and consume on social media: we all need hope, love, and laughter as well as good information.

“Love becomes greater and nobler in calamity.”
Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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