A cancer diagnosis at any time is an inconceivable blow, but dealing with the disease during a pandemic and — even worse — a lockdown feels particularly unbearable.
With appointments cancelled or postponed, distractions limited and loved ones often out of reach due to coronavirus restrictions, cancer sufferers can feel isolated and distressed.
Cancer survivor, author of Black Women Rising and founder of the Leanne Pero Foundation, Leanne Pero understands how living with a cancer diagnosis through a pandemic can heighten anxieties in an already stressful situation.
Here, Leanne reveals what those who are struggling with cancer can do to take care of themselves during this difficult time, as well as what families, partners and friends can do to support their loved ones.
Of course, it's important to remember that everyone is different and will want and need different things, but the below are a good starting point to create an open, and useful, sphere of support.
'If someone you know is faced with a cancer diagnosis check in with them regularly by sending them messages that let the know you are thinking of them. If they're up to it; staying connected through calls, Facetimes, Zooms, etc will help them feel less alone.'
Change your question
'Instead of asking "how are you?" ask "what can I do to support you?" because some people might not like the idea of reaching out for help unless prompted.'
Send a boost
'Sending little treats and gifts is a lovely way to give those struggling a boost. As well as the usual flowers, cards, etc, consider sending a food shop or (when restrictions allow) drop round some meals that they can reheat quickly to provide a nourishing home cooked meal.'
Help them prepare
'Even if you can't offer practical help in person due to restrictions, you could help your loved one prepare for their appointments and/or treatment by offering to help them gather information and/or questions and direct them to organisations that can give them proper advice. Make time after their appointments for a phone or video call where they can talk to you about their feelings. It's really important to listen rather than just offering advice, so that they can offload and be heard.'
Remember non-cancer conversation
'Many people want to talk openly about their cancer diagnosis, but others do not so it's important to respect the wishes of the person going through it. People who are going through it sometimes just need to talk about something normal, so remember to ask them about other things in their life that are not related to their cancer.'
Macmillan Cancer Support is a brilliant resource for those facing cancer and there are lots of ways that you can support them outlined on their website. Mind charity also provide mental health support and someone to talk to.
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