Social distance. Self isolation. Virtual communities.
Though strange and unsettling for the wider community, it’s a predicament already rather familiar for many of us in the cancer community. We’ve already made our peace with forces outside our control determining what we can and can’t do. It doesn’t feel like such a constraint on ‘our rights’ when we realise the dangers of an untreatable virus running rampant through communities. Because this has been ‘normal’ for so many of us within the Rare Cancers community.
So how do you cope? How do you re-frame your thoughts every time your neutrophils drop and make you more susceptible? Or when you’re living those isolation months after transplant?
wake at the usual time you would when life was normal – try not to allow your days to become a timeless void because this can amplify feelings of discouragement and sometimes depression;
when you wake up, notice the sounds you can hear, the weather outside, notice how the sunlight or rain is touching various elements in your environment, look for anything new in the view you have;
when you think about the day ahead, remind yourself that this won’t be forever;
prepare some breakfast and a drink; whatever it is, try to sit down for a few minutes while you eat it;
try to maintain a basic routine for each day, which includes personal hygiene (showers, getting dressed, teeth-brushing) and regular mealtimes, even if you’re not leaving the house;
try to plan at least 2 enjoyable activities during your day – hobbies, exercise, phone call to a friend, gardening, listening to music, or even just a few minutes lying on the couch, doing a puzzle, sitting in the sun… anything that doesn’t require you to push yourself;
if you have small children or other dependents, allow leniency, give yourself permission to use screens, audiobooks… remind yourself that, even if this lasts 6 months, for the vast majority of children, if they know they’re loved, they’re fed and other basic needs are met, they will come through this without serious consequence, and will return to normalcy quicker than us adults;
aim to move your body in enjoyable ways as well as making yourself puffed at least once a day; ie. walking, bike-riding, walking up and down stairs, gardening, yoga, pilates, dancing, aerobics, playing with children, etc;
aim to have a conversation on the phone (whether voice only or video call) with one person outside your home at least daily, or send a video of yourself talking or doing something enjoyable to a loved one;
check in with someone with a text message or email;
try to re-focus your thoughts on what makes you feel joy;
go to bed at a reasonable hour – don’t become a night owl or allow circadian rhythms to become distorted (which can again increase depressive tendencies);
remind yourself that this won’t be forever, and you’re one day closer to the end of this strange world of physical distance.
Much of the world that we exist in is not used to living in the shadow of a global, uncontrollable health threat; not used to their activities and schedules being at the mercy of a public health department’s regulations. And whilst the current climate still has a rather ominous air of worry and uncertainty, and it has probably changed so much about our communities, our usual hospital routines and treatment schedules, it’s important to remember that, this time, it’s global. Never before, in the bleak isolation of living with cancer, have we felt this loneliness in global solidarity. We will, indeed, walk through this together while we live apart.