Don't Panic! Tips for Weathering The Coronavirus Pandemic

by Jane Ashley

These are troubling times for most cancer patients. Having cancer and being in active treatment is stressful enough, but now the entire global population is besieged with the coronavirus, aka COVID-19.

Wash Your Hands #2

What is the coronavirus, and why is it so dangerous?

Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is a new virus for humans. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, but there are several strains of the coronavirus in animals. COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The first patients had viral pneumonia, and some of them had visited the local seafood market.

Sometimes, a virus in animals “jumps” to humans — this appears to be the case in this current coronavirus pandemic. When a virus “jumps” to humans, our immune systems don’t recognize this new invader. We humans have never had this virus, so we have no natural immunity. And there is no vaccine.

COVID-19 affects the lungs. In severely-ill cases, patients develop pneumonia and/or respiratory failure, sometimes requiring a ventilator. These patients are in intensive care due to the severity of their disease. Symptoms include high fever (over 100.5), cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms occur between 2 and 14 days after exposure.

Fever Over 1005

What should cancer patients do?

If you are in active treatment, follow the instructions of your cancer center and your oncologist. They know your particular situation and will give you the information specific to your circumstances.

Cancer survivors can suffer from compromised immune systems after our treatment, particularly if we’ve had blood cancer and/or had a bone marrow transplant. Follow your oncologist’s advice.

Tips to Avoid Stress and Anxiety during the Coming Weeks

Undoubtedly, the coming weeks and months are going to be stressful for our families and us. Stress weakens our immune systems, so we want to calm our nerves, weather this pandemic, and emerge stronger and more enlightened.

• Take news breaks. Once you watched the morning or evening news, not much will change. Watching and re-watching the story adds extra stress and anxiety.
• Don’t believe everything that you read on social media. Some people seem to thrive on spreading fake news and rumors just to stir people up. They do it for fun. Don’t be deceived when you see or hear “dire” predictions shared by some of your friends. They may fall victim to fake news and share it, thinking that they are helping.
• Try to keep your regular schedule. Interruptions in our regular schedule upset our internal clock. Get up and go to bed at the same time to ensure that you’ll get enough sleep.
• Exercise, even if it’s at home. Keeping physically active helps reduce stress and keeps our body healthy. Even if our gym closes, we can exercise at home and go for a walk in our neighborhood. Sunshine is good for us and provides Vitamin D.

Walking Fights Depression

• Stay in touch with friends. Even if you’re under “shelter-in-place” restrictions, keep in touch with your friends and neighbors via phone calls, emails, and Facebook. Learn to use the technology that you have in your computer and cellphone – Skype and Facetime are free and allow us to visit with our children and grandchildren without leaving our home or apartment.
• Be prepared. Get your regular prescriptions filled and pick them up via the drive-through. It’s okay to buy an extra box of cereal or some frozen dinners, but don’t panic and hoard toilet paper and bottled water that you don’t need.
• Stay mentally active. Boredom and lack of mental stimulation can lead to depression. Adult coloring books, reading, and crossword puzzles are all excellent distractions when staying at home for extended periods. I bought a Kindle a couple of years ago and love it. I subscribe to several newsletters that offer free book downloads and lots of classic books at highly-discounted prices. With a Kindle, it won’t matter if you can’t go to the local library or if the library closes. Bring out your knitting needles or go out into your shop and get busy with your hobby.

Buy A Kindle

• Spiritual life. Many churches nationwide aren’t having physical services but are streaming services on-line. In times like these, many of us need to meet our spiritual needs even if it’s in a different way.
• Eat healthy. A balanced diet helps us feel at our peak. Too much junk food and lack of activity lead to weight gain and digestive upsets. Limit alcohol consumption.
• It’s okay to feel afraid. Don’t feel ashamed if you are feeling frightened over the coronavirus pandemic. It’s normal. Talk out your fears with a friend over the phone or via email. Try not to worry excessively about the economy or the potential that a loved one might lose their job. Government programs are being put together to blunt the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus.
• Remember the past. Many of us baby boomers remember the polio outbreak of the 1950s. As many as 60,000 children contracted polio some of those years. Safe vaccines were developed, and polio has been eliminated in almost every place in the world. We also remember the stock market crash of 1987, when the Dow dropped 22% in a single day. We remember September 11th. We’ve seen bad times before, and we’ll survive this crisis too.
• Listen to music. Music never fails. It can calm you when anxious and cheer you when depressed. Almost all cable and satellite TV subscriptions include many channels of music.
• Practice good hygiene. Follow the CDC guidelines about hand washing, not touching your face, and self-isolating if advised by your local authorities. Following recommendations helps prevent anxiety.

Wash Your Hands #2

So WhatNext?

As we see from day-to-day, the coronavirus situation in the U.S. and worldwide continues to be very fluid. As the new drive-thru testing facilities become more widespread, don’t be disturbed if the number of diagnosed cases rises substantially. The rise in diagnosed cases is to be expected. Financial help for almost everyone seems imminent and will help calm fears that we all are feeling. It appears that our government is working with the private section to ensure that groceries and everyday household items continue to be available.

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Follow your oncologist’s advice. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Talk about your fears with a trusted friend or colleague or here at WhatNext. We’re all in this together.

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