Social Distancing – all too familiar for cancer patients

By Les Friedman, CEO and Mikey’s dad

Social distancing - all too familiar for cancer patients. Wearing a mask and gloves is nothing new for cancer patients.

The spread of the Novel Coronavirus has placed social distancing in the forefront of global attention.  For most people, this is probably their first experience practicing social distancing to avoid infection.  But for cancer patients, it’s well, just another Monday.  The concept of social distancing is all too familiar for cancer patients, whose immune systems may be compromised because of their disease or treatment.

Wearing a mask, donning gloves, avoiding crowds and frequent hand washing aren’t anything new. While this behavior is the new normal for everyone during COVID-19, it’s the “always normal” for cancer patients.  

That’s why when it comes to coping with isolation, cancer patients are a step ahead of everyone else.  Because they’ve been practicing social distancing and staying connected, while apart, for years. 

Learning to maintain equilibrium

During uncertain times, such as the spread of COVID-19, life can be scary and surreal. Yet, despite the overwhelming fear of the disease or losing a loved one; the world keeps turning and we need to keep moving.  While none of us can control what is happening, we can control how we respond to it.

By necessity, cancer patients and their families have become adept at living in this type of limbo.  The secret is learning how to maintain equilibrium when the ground beneath us is shaking.  

What cancer patients and their families already know about this new normal is worth sharing.  They know that it’s about learning to live with uncertainty. It’s about finding a way to cope with stress and loneliness.

Staying connected with others

With all the technology available today, safe social distancing doesn’t mean we have to stay socially isolated.  There are a large number of mobile and web-based applications that enable us to connect with one another. Some of the most popular ones are Skype , FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Zoom.  

During this pandemic, pediatric cancer patients are even more in need of social interaction to help “normalize” their social development. Electronics like those distributed by Mikey’s Way Foundation, are uniquely suited to serve the pediatric patient undergoing long-term treatment.  These Wi-Fi ready electronics, provide connection and diversion to help children cope with the emotional and physical hardships of long term, debilitating treatment.

Cancer Support Community offers ideas on how to maintain a healthy social life while still practicing safe social distancing.  Hosting a Netflix Party movie night or watching a virtual concert together are some ideas they suggest. For more ideas, visit their blog, “How to stay socially active while social distancing.”

While its vitally important to practice safe social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s also important to take care of our own physical and mental health during these trying times.

Getting through the long days of social distancing

Living with uncertainty and anxiety while dealing with self-isolation is incredibly stressful. A healthy attitude and perspective play a significant role in helping to maintain resilience during a crisis. This is especially important during a crisis that separates us from one another. 

Social distancing gives us an opportunity to focus on what’s really important, what really matters.  It helps manifest our priorities for getting through each day with strength and resilience.

During the long hours of isolation, it’s important to find the things that help make us feel better – what makes us happy.  The key is to turn to things that provide us with balance. Perhaps this is a nature walk, painting, listening to music, practicing meditation or mindfulness. It’s important to stay connected with yourself especially when dealing with isolation and worry. Explore creative projects, try a new recipe, learn a new interest or hobby.  Focus on food, sleep, exercise, and getting outdoors. And challenge negative thoughts as much as possible. 

It’s also important to be flexible and remain calm when our “schedule” doesn’t flow correctly. It helps to focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do.

Stay positive, focused and informed. Find the right resources and avoid stories that feed into the panic. The more informed you are, the more you’ll feel in control of what’s happening. But, if listening to the news is stressful, limit the amount of time that you watch the news.  

Read More on the topic

Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips on, Staying Well While Staying at Home

Read what patients have to say about social distancing during COVID-19 in Lessons from cancer patients in the time of coronavirus.