Dr Kgomotso Mzimba shares both safety and copings measure for cancer patients amidst COVID-19.
At the start of the year no one could have predicted that we would find ourselves facing one of the worst pandemics, COVID-19, since the Spanish flu. We were forced to accept that things would most likely not be the same and that our new normal would include self-isolation, social distancing and lockdown.
What is COVID-19?
Covid-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019; it’s an illness that is caused by SARS-COV-2. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses which are usually found to cause disease in mammals and birds and occasionally to humans as well.
Coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory illnesses. The illnesses range from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
What does this mean for you as a cancer patient?
Those that are at risk for COVID complications are patients that are immunocompromised. Cancer patients fall under this group due to various factors. Your immune system could be weakened by the cancer itself, various chemotherapies and immunosuppression therapies used to treat the cancer.
As a cancer patient/survivor, you unfortunately fall into the vulnerable group. As scary and daunting as it may sound, there are measures that you can put in place together with health professionals to effectively protect yourself.
COVID-19 safety measures
There are certain changes that may need to occur to your cancer care during the time of COVID-19. Your appointments may not be as frequent as you would possibly like and you may have to opt for other ways to conduct appointments, such as online and telephonic consults.
Of course, these alternatives would be discussed with you by your healthcare professional. In terms of treatments and procedures, your doctor will discuss the way forward on the continuation of medication and treatment plan. If possible repeat prescriptions should be e-mailed to pharmacies and the medication should be delivered to your home.
Patients who are post-treatment and are on an endocrine therapy may safely continue their medication as they don’t suppress your immune system and don’t increase risk of complicated and severe COVID-19.
COVID-19 coping measures
The coronavirus outbreak has caused much fear and anxiety for many people. With a lot of uncertainty surrounding the disease, treatment, cure and vaccinations, it can be a very stressful time. All this stress and anxiety takes a toll on your mental health and well-being.
Here are ways to effectively cope with the stress during the pandemic:
Be selective about the information you consume
Being informed about the disease is important. However, you can become overly consumed further heightening the fear and anxiety. It’s important that you consume the correct information. In the age of social media, anyone can provide information which can sometimes be fake.
Discover new hobbies or reignite old passions
This would be a good time to take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. Partaking in activities that stimulate your mind may help to distract you from the constant worry, concern and anxiety. It’s a good time to do things that you previously loved doing that you no longer had the time to do.
Take care of your body
As the saying goes, “A healthy body equals a healthy mind.” Stay active during this time, even though we’re under lockdown. There are many home exercises to do and ways to stay active in the confinement of your home. Eat a healthy balanced diet and always ensure that you get plenty of sleep.
Take mental breaks
Give yourself time to breathe and just focus on yourself. Incorporate meditation and breathing exercises to help clear your mind.
Connect with family and friends
As humans, we crave human connection and touch, and although we can’t necessarily form physical connections, we can still maintain emotional connections with our loved ones through social media and the internet. Confide in your loved ones with whatever fears or worries you currently have.
MEET THE EXPERT – Dr Kgomotso Mzimba
Dr Kgomotso Mzimba is a primary oncology care physician/survivorship specialist. She did her undergrad at UCT and post-graduating she spent time working at Helen Joseph Hospital Breast Clinic. She currently works at Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence.