written by Debra Sullivan, PhD
Uncertainty. Fear of the unknown. Isolation. Fear of death. Loss of control. Fatigue. Worry.
“Life changing decisions have to be made quickly and I don’t have all the information I need. What should I do?”
Most everyone in the world is having these kinds of feelings with the pandemic of COVID-19. Those living with cancer have known these thoughts, feelings and difficult experiences intimately since their diagnosis.
Most also know that there is no quick fix to remedy the discomfort; no easy solutions to quickly help one feel better in mind, body and spirit. The oft-used metaphor that living with and beyond cancer is a marathon and not a sprint seems relevant for everyone in the world right now.
At Cancer Support Community East TN, we have been coming together for 30 years to help those with cancer feel less isolated, learn to manage what is controllable, and to help everyone involved decrease their feelings of stress and anxiety. Members connect with each other, with our staff, and with knowledgeable cancer care experts in the East TN community to live the best quality of life possible, for as long as possible. While the whole world is experiencing the challenges of COVID-19, those living with cancer are faced with an even greater degree of difficulty and challenge in their lives, having all of the hardships of living with cancer – which do not go away – often having compromised immune systems, and in addition dealing with the necessity of having to use medical systems for the treatment of cancer, and thus risking being exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
If there is a silver lining, it is that our members have learned to be flexible in the face of uncertainty and change. They have learned to give and receive support, even in dire circumstances. They have learned to ride the emotional and physical roller coaster of an immediate life and death situation, which everyone in the world is being forced to ride.
Fortunately, many members of our community have learned to find meaning and hope, in good times as well as bad, in the connections that have been forged with each other.
The vision of Cancer Support Community, that no one should face cancer alone, has not changed, but the ways we are providing support are being changed by this crisis. For now, during this crisis, our offices are closed. But we will continue to provide weekly support groups for those currently in treatment, through the confidential online platform Zoom. And through our website we will provide stress management classes led by CSCET community professionals. We have a wonderful adjunct staff of healthy lifestyle instructors who are providing videos of their classes and live classes via Zoom. We will continue to provide educational workshops for understanding and managing cancer.
The challenges of cancer will not wait on the back burner for the COVID-19 crisis to pass. Cancer Support Community East TN is doing its best to change in the face of these challenges, while continuing to ensure that no one faces cancer alone.